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A Q&A with Alonzo Bodden

Lisa Simmons
A Q&A with Alonzo Bodden
Alonzo Bodden (Photo: Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Introduced to America on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” Alonzo Bodden was runner up on season two and came back to win it all on “Last Comic Standing” season three “The Best of the Best.” He is a regular on NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” and last year he was a featured guest on Comedy Central’s “Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.” Known for his social commentary, comedian Alonzo Bodden starred in his second stand-up comedy special titled “Historically Incorrect,” which premiered on Showtime in February 2016.

Bodden spoke to the Banner prior to his Boston show. At a time when some find it hard to laugh at anything, Bodden takes that angst and frustration many are feeling and repackages into a comedic set that makes one think and most important, that makes one laugh. Now who doesn’t need that?

I love the show “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” How is it to be a comedian on that show?

Alonzo Bodden: It’s a show you can’t really prepare for, well at least I don’t. It always makes me laugh and I just say whatever comes to my mind. The thing about that show is that you really need to see it live because they edit out a lot of conversations and jokes that wouldn’t be allowed on radio.

You do television, radio, films, and stand-up. What is your dream space to do comedy?

My dream would be a topical comedy show on TV like ‘The Daily Show.’ I do topical comedy live but TV pays better. It’s hard now. I would love to be hosting a show but selling a comedy show to networks, they are looking for edgy, younger acts and I’m not young. I still get work and love being able to be on shows but networks and studios aren’t making deals like they used to and they aren’t willing to take a chance unless you show up with 200,000 to 330,000 followers.

You do jokes about giving your brother a kidney, but really, that’s no laughing matter. It’s pretty amazing.

AB: I tell everyone that he owed me money, but really my brother is my best friend. He’s my best critic and will tell me like it is and when I’m not getting it right. I remember there was this time when he saw a set on ‘Last Comic Standing’ and said, “You’re thinking about the money.” I changed gears and thought about the comedy.

Where do you get your sense of humor?

AB: From my mother. She is hilarious.

It’s no secret that you love motorcycles and not just any motorcycles, you have a Ducati! Why, such a passion? The speed, the risk, like comedy can be?

AB: It’s my escape and it actually puts me in this meditative state. (Hmm…maybe he shouldn’t be riding). I first started riding when I was seven on my grandmother’s farm in South Carolina. I remember it feeling like I was flying. I mean, I guess there is a risk but the reward is much greater.

What message do you think your comedy conveys?

AB: Comedy is different things to different people. It’s about the creativity, that’s my favorite thing, and the rhythm. I work with a lot of jazz artists and host jazz festivals and they always say to me ,“Man you’re a jazz musician; you just go where your comedy takes you.” Early in my career it was tough gaining acceptance from black audiences. I came out during “Def Comedy Jam” and black crowds took a while to warm to me, but Cedric The Entertainer encouraged me to keep going, be who I was, and they came along. In the world of comedy the court jester was the only guy who could speak truth to power but if he wasn’t funny they chopped off his head. A kind of risk/reward and not unlike dying in front of an audience. I do topical situational comedy, so it conveys and relates to what is going on right now.

You make fun of things you call “Historically Incorrect” like black hockey players.

AB: Black hockey players. What I’m saying is that black hockey players are something we don’t see. I use to joke about not liking hockey because the only thing black was the puck but I was doing a fundraiser in Winnipeg and joking about black hockey players, and Ryan Reaves who is from Winnipeg is black and plays pro hockey. And he came up to me after the show and said, ‘I’m a black hockey player’ and he taught me about the game. They say we’re not supposed to be in those places but guess what, we are. That’s “Historically Incorrect.”

If you go

What: Alonzo Bodden at Laugh Boston

Where: 425 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210

When: Thursday, May 19, 8 p.m., Friday, May 20 and Saturday, May 21, 7:30 p.m. & 10 p.m.,

Tickets: Thursday: $24 and $34, Friday and Saturday: $29 and $39. To purchase, call 617.725.2844 or order online at wwwlaughboston.com

You have a line in your bio that says “The stupid out there is wearing the man down.” How does your comedy change with different political environments like this one?

AB: It’s difficult to come up with jokes, to be as funny as Trump, because no one can out- trump Trump. The problem though is he’s not joking, he’s serious. I like more personal driven comedy. People say I am a lot like George Carlin who is one of my favorite comedians. That is a compliment. I remember when people said that when Barack Obama got elected things were supposed to get better but they’re not. Racism is just more public. The problem is the news media is not the news media anymore. They are not concerned with telling the truth, so comics (political, topical) are the last ones doing that, telling the truth. Lewis Black is great at that.

How are Boston audiences different than other places you do shows?

AB: Back in the day, Boston was a comedy city and they have always been a tough audience. They know comedy. I always wanted to come here because the audiences here push us. They don’t laugh at everything and that’s good. It makes us work harder.

Where are you most comfortable?

AB: On the stage. It’s my home and I am more comfortable there than anywhere else.

What do you want people to say about you after they leave your show?

AB: Besides the laughter? I made them think.

Alonzo Bodden is performing at Laugh Boston May 19-21. Tickets go fast so be sure to get them soon.