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  • Writer's pictureShane Almgren

Alonzo Bodden: Comedian, Actor, Winner of Last Comic Standing

Updated: Jan 12

Alonzo Bodden is a comedian, actor, and the winner of Season 3 of Last Comic Standing. He is a regular on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me and Comedy Congress, as well as being a panelist on the Game Show Network’s Mind of a Man. In 2011, he starred in the comedy special Who’s Paying Attention on Showtime, released a DVD, and hosts a podcast of the same name. That same year, he was a panelist on the syndicated show Inside the Vault, and voiced the character of Thunderon in the Power Rangers movie. Bodden has also hosted Speed Channel’s 101 Cars You Must Drive, and America’s Worst Driver on the Travel Channel.

Alonzo has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show, Comedy Central Presents, and It's Showtime at the Apollo. His film credits include Scary Movie 4, The Girl Next Door, and Bringing Down the House starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifah. Alonzo has traveled around the world entertaining USO troops from Iraq to Greenland.



Episode Highlights

Get ready for a whirlwind of laughter as we sit down with the incredibly talented comedian, Alonzo Bodden. From his early days as an airplane mechanic to gracing the stage of Just for Laughs, Alonzo takes us through his uniquely humorous voyage into the world of comedy. He recounts his time on the Last Comic Standing, discusses his comedic influences, including Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock, and shares his thoughts on joke stealing and the role of fame in comedy.


Alonzo peels back the curtain on his process of creating jokes, influenced by the news cycle and inspired by different comedians. We also delve into the realities of the entertainment industry, with Alonzo candidly sharing his experiences, from playing security guard to Leslie Nielsen and Steve Martin, to the knack required to navigate show business. We discuss the intricacies of preparing for a Comedy Central roast and the arduous task of creating an hour-long show.


We cover a lot of hilarious material in this episode including:


  • How a career training airplane mechanics led to comedy

  • What Last Comic Standing meant to his career, and the behind-the scene “reality" of reality shows

  • The influence of Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan, Bill Cosby, Damon Wayans, George Wallace, George Carlin, Steven Wright, Robin Williams and more

  • Why he focuses on topical humor, and where he gets his material from

  • The difference between joke-stealing and parallel thought •

  • How stand-up comedy leads to film and television roles, and the competition between comedians for network sitcoms

  • How long it takes to hone material to get it ready for a stand-up TV special, and SO much more!

As we wrap up, Alonzo offers invaluable advice to budding comics and shares the formula which has bolstered his career; a blend of luck, talent, and timing. We discuss how to stay creative amidst a political climate that can often seem overwhelming for a comedian. So, buckle up and join us for this insightful, laughter-filled conversation with the one and only Alonzo Bodden. It's more than just comedy; it's a journey of perseverance, creativity, and the relentless pursuit of laughter.


Listen


 

Read the Complete Transcript

Shane Hello, everyone! Welcome to the official Liv2cre8 podcast, coming to you from Nashville, Tennessee. I am your host, Shane Almgren, and I am joined today by comedian and actor, and the winner of season three of Last Comic Standing, Alonzo Bodden. Bodden has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show, Comedy Central Presents, and Its Showtime at the Apollo. He is a regular on NPR's Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me! and Comedy Congress, as well as being a panelist on the Game Show Network's Mind of a Man. In 2011, he starred in the comedy special Who's Paying Attention on Showtime, and he has also hosted Speed Channel’s 101 Cars You Must Drive and America's Worst Driver on the Travel Channel. Hey, Alonzo, thanks for joining me today. Alonzo Bodden Hey, what's up, Shane? How you doing? Shane I'm good man. How are you? Alonzo Bodden Okay. Shane You are a very busy man these days. Are you just doing a lot of club dates right now, or do you have any big projects in the works? Alonzo Bodden Yeah, I'm always, always like that, bouncing around clubs and hustling for work in between, trying to find something that sticks, auditions, and all that stuff. Shane How many club dates do you do a year, do you think? Alonzo Bodden Actually, probably about 20. Yeah, I'd say about 20, 25. Yeah, maybe not 25. I'd say 20, somewhere in between 20 and 25. Shane I'm very curious how you got into this in the beginning. How long were you doing comedy before Last Comic Standing? What were you doing before that? Take us back a little while. Alonzo Bodden I've been doing it—let's see. January was my 23rd year in comedy. I was an airplane mechanic, and I started training new mechanics and having fun making them laugh, telling them stories, and things like that, and I just enjoyed that part more. And what happened was I always had a sense of humor, but it wasn't until I worked as an instructor that I realized I was comfortable and happy in front of a group of people. I had no qualms, no real nervousness, about talking to a group, so I decided I wanted to pursue it. I wanted to pursue comedy. I took a comedy writing class, and it was a six-week course. Basically, what they did was they had you write down a funny story and then, over the course of the six weeks, pull the funny out and eliminate the not funny. So it would just be a story told, you know, with a series of jokes, and that was that writer's technique. And it was good, and then I did the five-minute graduation and loved being on stage and made a decision that that's what I was going to do. So I got laid off from McDonnell Douglas and never looked back. I started pursuing comedy. My first big break was four years in. I went to Just for Laughs in Montreal, which is the biggest comedy festival in the world, and I did “New Faces of Comedy.” At that time, back in the ‘90s, you could get a deal—you know, a development deal or something like that—just based on doing “New Faces.” So I was lucky. I was one of the people who got that. That started me in comedy full-time. And then it was 10 years in when I did Last Comic Standing. I always consider myself having been discovered at Just for Laughs and having been introduced to America by Last Comic Standing. Shane How busy were you from when you first started doing the comedy until the Last Comic Standing thing? Were you working a lot, or were you still struggling? Alonzo Bodden Yeah, always, always. I've always loved being on stage, so I've always pursued the work. And it kind of goes in—for me, it's been in plateaus. So I'll work really hard at one level, like starting out work at the open mic level and then start getting some, you know, $25 gigs, $50 gigs, road gigs in the southwest, which meant a lot of driving, but it was all about getting on stage, getting stage time. Then Last Comic Standing moved me up to where I would headline more of the B and C rooms and middle first or open for some of the bigger names, and I did that. And then I started getting some TV work. You know some of the smaller late-night shows, like Keenan Ivory Wayans and Conan back when he was in New York, and some Comedy Central stuff. You know, things like that. And then the next big jump was Last Comic. So it's kind of been like that. I don't know. It’s hard to explain the time schedule. But as far as working, yeah, I've always pursued work. I love being on stage, and it's only been in the last couple of years that the road's gotten tiring, mostly because of airlines and travel. It just wears you down. The airlines, the airports, though, and I tell people I'm a platinum flyer. I don't know what it's like if you're in group four because I'm platinum, and they treat me like shit. So if you're in group four, I guess they just take a stick and beat you down into your chair, and I don't know what they do to you. Shane What was the experience like doing a reality TV show? You know, I actually did one way back in the day. I've had some friends that were on American Idol and The Voice, and you hear some horror stories about what life is like when they're not taping, and it's kind of boot campish. What was it like for you? Alonzo Bodden Well, for us—well, okay, I did Last Comic Standing in Season 2, and that was the reality portion. Season 3 was more of a contest, but we'll talk about Season 2. Well, back then, we had to live together for a month, so it started out with the two-minute audition in the daytime. And then you come back that night, and you do a five minute. That was what I did in LA. Then they picked people from that nationwide thing to go to New York. Then people from New York went to Vegas, and 40 of us went to Vegas, and they picked 10 of us to go into the house. Now, by then, it was like this was my job being on the show, and my attitude always was—well, every Wednesday people get eliminated, right? So my whole attitude was, every week, don't get fired. You know what I mean? When it goes from 40 to 10, don't get fired. From 10 to 9, don't get fired. I'm telling you, that was my attitude. Don't get fired every week. As far as dealing with the show, it was so different with comics, right? Because, for one thing, comics are used to living together because a lot of the small clubs on the road—they would have what's called comedy condos, right? So they would rent an apartment somewhere near the club, and that's where the comics would stay for the weekend you were working. So we're used to that situation, and comics are pretty quiet, pretty laid-back, and pretty lazy when we're off stage. So they would literally—the producers would try to stir up shit. They were like, “You guys are boring.” And we're like, “Yeah, put us on stage. We'd be sitting around reading, you know. There were some people that they could stir up. Tammy Pescatelli was one. They knew how to push Tammy's buttons. This guy named Ant always liked to stir up stuff, you know. But then the comics like myself—me and Kathleen Madigan were probably the grown-ups. We were the oldest ones, and they would—this was an example of what they would do to try to stir up trouble. So they'd come to me and say, “Hey, Alonzo, do you think you can win?” And I'm like, “Well, of course I think I could win. Why would I be here if I didn't think I could win?” And they'd literally run over to Kathleen and say, “Hey, Kathleen, Alonzo just said he's a better comic than you.” And Kathleen would say, “Well, good for him. Good for him. I wish him the best.” And then me and Kathleen would both laugh, and the producers would be like, “Ugh.” So there were a couple of times they got to me, but for the most part, they would attempt to manipulate us. There were a couple of big situations that got bad, but for the most part, we got along. Our regret—if you watched the production meetings, you would have thought it was comics versus producers because there'd be 10 of us on one side of the table yelling at five of them on the other side of the table. But our regret was some of the funniest stuff the audience never saw. You know, because when comics are together, when we do start joking around, we have no rules and no limits, so it gets kind of crazy, and it gets really funny. But because it was a reality show, they want to show the controversy and build the tension. So they never showed when we were just being ourselves and being hilarious. Shane I imagine that everybody that was there doing it sort of thought that they could win, but as it got whittled down and whittled down, what point did it become a realization to you that you legitimately could win this thing? Alonzo Bodden Oh, from the beginning. From the beginning, I was very confident, and that's no knock against the other comics. Shane I'm telling Kathleen you said that. Alonzo Bodden Tell her. Tell Kathleen. I just believed in myself, and it was time. George Wallace, who was one of my mentors and a good friend, said, “Everyone gets a break. It's just a matter of being ready when your break comes.” And for me, all my career, I always looked at the best comics, at the great ones. At that time, obviously, Chappelle would be on top—and Chris Rock. So in my mind, I want to compete with them. You know what I mean? This is a step on the way to competing with those guys. So, yeah, so I was aiming for the top. And again, it's no knock against the other comics. There were some comics I was worried about and some comics I wasn't worried about. Kathleen, for example, was a worry because Kathleen came in with the biggest career. Kathleen had won female comic of the year. She had already done a couple of HBO specials, and she had done The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which was kind of before the rest of us. I knew Heffron was really good. I knew that Gary Gulman was really good, and then others were a matter of taste, you know. So, yeah. So I was confident going in, and I wanted it. That was the other thing. I wanted to win. One of my problems that friends tell me is that I'm never happy with success, so it's all or nothing with me. It was either win or nothing. And then, at the end of Season 2, I came in second to John Heffron, which is a whole other funny story because Heff and I have competed on numerous shows. We both came up at a time in the ‘90s when there were a lot of comedy competitions, so we had gone against each other on Star Search and Last Comic Standing, and blah, blah, blah. So he won that one. Then I came back, and I won Season 3, which was kind of the all-star season. The nice thing about that was it paid a lot more than winning Season 2, but that was when Heff and I agreed to never compete again. We retired. [Laughs]. Shane Just against each other, or competition in general? Alonzo Bodden Against each other, or anyone else, really. Once you've done Last Comic Standing, it's kind of like you don't go to America's Got Talent or anything like that. You know what I mean? Shane You don't need to get validated again. Alonzo Bodden Right. It’s done, and you don't need the stress again of wondering who's going to get fired next Wednesday. Shane You mentioned Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock. What other comedians were you influenced by? Alonzo Bodden Louis Black, as bad as it is to say now and as unfortunate as it is that his reputation is ruined. Bill Cosby. Shane Well, he was a brilliant comic. Alonzo Bodden Taking away from his lifestyle, he may have been the greatest comic of all time. I mean, I've watched Cosby, you know, a few years—like a year before the whole scandal thing, and that's 50 years in. He's still doing new material. It was amazing to watch, you know. So, yeah, so Cosby was. George Wallace. Like I said, I learned a lot from George. I learned from Dom Irrera. I learned from Damon Wayans. I used to work at the Laugh Factory at the door, and I would just watch these guys when they came in and did their sets, and I learned different things from different ones. But, yeah, a lot of them influenced me. Shane Your comedy tends to be very topical. Is that how you describe it, or do you have another term for it? Alonzo Bodden Yeah, now it became topical after Last Comic Standing. Prior to that, it was more—there were a lot of personal stories and topical stuff, but more and more it became topical. And when we did Season 3 of Last Comic Standing—you know, in the music business, they say you have your whole life to come up with your first record, and then you have a year to come up with your second one. And that's kind of how it was with Last Comic Standing. Going into Season 2, I had all the material I had done to draw on. But Season 3, which was, you know, six months later, we were on the road constantly on tour, and I would do material—you know, I'd be writing material Thursday, Friday, Saturday and doing it on TV on Tuesday, and personally, I loved that. I loved getting new stuff out there. People thought I was crazy for doing it, but I loved it. So it just became more of a topical thing. What happened today? What are people talking about? I want to talk about that. Shane So are you just watching the news 24/7 to see what's going on? Alonzo Bodden No. No, you can't. It becomes too much. But I do have some regular news feeds that I read. I almost don't watch TV news. You know, TV news just tells me what's the big story that everyone's talking about, and then reading about it is where you get more detail and more things you can use in comedy. And the other thing is—and this is why I still do personal stuff—Lewis Black taught me. He said, “Listen, you got to throw in some dick jokes because they can't think all the time. You know, you just can't. People need a break, right, from what's going on.” So that's where you throw in the other stuff. Steven Wright, who if you're familiar with him—so the thing with Steven Wright was they said he couldn't do a 45-minute show because the audience couldn't take it. They couldn't think that much for that long. You know, because everything he says, whether it was—there’d be such a subtle meaning to it and so on—and double entendres and everything else. So, yeah, I still like to throw in the dick jokes now and then, just for fun. Shane This is one topic I'm really curious about, and on this show that we're doing here, I've had a couple of music producers and songwriters, and it's pretty universally acknowledged that another artist covering your song is one of the biggest compliments you can give a songwriter. I've also had the world slam dunk champ on here, the reigning master's pool trick shot champ, and a professional magician who lectures around the world. And they're all unanimous that they enjoy seeing other practitioners adopt their tricks and techniques, and it’s high praise and validating. But comedy is the one form of artistry where borrowing—and I put that in quotations, “borrowing material”—it’s not just frowned upon; it's like the lowest thing you can sink to. Alonzo Bodden Yeah, pretty much. Shane There's nothing worse in the comedy world than being a joke stealer. Why is that? Alonzo Bodden That's right. It’s absolutely true. When I started out, they told me—“they” being some of the old pros. A guy named Danny Mora, who helped coach me a lot and helped taught me a lot about the business. He said, “Look, there's always going to be joke thieves, and you can't stop it. Just remember, you can write more.” See, at some point, the thief is going to be outed. At some point, the thief's going to be caught, but it happens. But there's parallel thought, and parallel thought is when something happens and two people think of the same joke. Right? And I'll give you an example that I had with it. When we first had the Shoe Bomber, remember, and they started the thing at the airport, you had to take your shoes off? So I did a joke about it, and basically, my punch line was: “Where's the bra bomber at?” Okay? So somehow, I did it on Last Comic Standing, and I think—I want to say it was Kevin Nealon's manager or somebody. They called the show, and they said, “Hey, Kevin Nealon does the bra bomber joke. Alonzo stole that joke,” or whatever. And they were like, “Okay, first of all, for comics, that's not a genius thought.” You know what I mean? That's something more than one of us would have thought of. And they said, “Second of all, where would Alonzo have seen Kevin Nealon? You know? What? Where? What? Where do they hang out together?” You know what I mean. So that was just an example of parallel thought. I've had instances where I've had a parallel joke to something Chris Rock does, and I'll see Chris do it. Then I'll stop doing it because I'm like, well, no one's going to believe I thought of it too. You know what I mean, and that's just a function of fame and respect and stuff, you know. So I won't do that. But, yeah, a joke thief—you can't stop it. And then Rich Shydner—who's a brilliant comic and writer, been around forever—and he does these great Facebook posts about comedy in the old days because he started—I think Rich started in the late ‘70s, definitely in the early ‘80s. He was around for all the boom of the ‘80s, and he said, “You know, sometimes, like it or not, the audience would rather hear the joke from someone else.” And that happens sometimes. There was a big thing with Robin Williams: how Robin would do jokes he heard at the Comedy Store, not intentionally but just because he was just on a roll and he's saying funny things, and then he, you know, not realizing, well, yeah, you heard that. But anyway, if the audience would rather hear your joke from Robin Williams, there isn’t much you can do about it. You know? Shane Well, there was that—the Penn & Teller movie, The Aristocrats—that was just, you know, a full feature-length film of comedians all telling the exact same joke with their own personal spin on it. How is that different? Alonzo Bodden Oh, because that's a public domain joke. Shane Gotcha. Okay. Alonzo Bodden You know, that's like reading a joke on the Internet, right? You can see a funny joke on the Internet. Nobody knows who wrote it. Now, if you do it in your act, if you say, “Hey, I read this joke,” or “I heard this joke, and this is hilarious,” that's okay. If you do it in your act and try to pretend you wrote it, that's horrible. So The Aristocrats is a joke that everybody knows, and everybody can put their own spin on it. So people tell—that whole movie was about telling the same joke different ways. Shane So one part of my morning ritual—when I get up, I want to start my day with happy thoughts, and I just put on the comedy station on Pandora. And when you listen for enough hours and enough days, you do recognize that there's a lot of people that have sort of certain—like your thing with the bra bomber. Everyone's got their different twists on it or their different punch line, but they're sort of talking about the same thing. But, for example, there was a bit that Bill Cosby did about the football player who works out with his dad from the time he's a little kid. And then, you know, the first time he gets on TV, he runs down, they point the camera in his face, and he says, “I love you, mom.” And Carlos Mencia does that. It's like a five-minute bit, and Mencia was notorious for stealing jokes, I think. Alonzo Bodden Right. So you picked the example of somebody who's, you know, been outed as a joke thief. And the thing about Carlos, I never really understood why Carlos did that because Carlos is actually funny. You know, it’s one thing when a hack comic from Iowa—and I'm just using that as an example. No disrespect to Iowa. Shane Don't worry, they don't have the internet there. They're not going to hear this podcast. Alonzo Bodden So you go to a comedy club, you know, in Iowa or Missouri or Tennessee or something, and you're a traveling comic. You come in. You do your set. And then, three weeks later, after you left, the host or some local comic who heard it starts doing your joke there. You know what I mean? That's a thief. What happens with that guy? He's never going to get out of that club. He's never going to get out of that circuit because, once he steps up a notch, people are going to know, “Hey, you stole that joke.” I mean, comics, we know each other by jokes. You know? If I say, “I don't mean that in a bad way,” comics know, “Oh, that's Dom Irrera.” You know? You’re literally like, “Hey, do you remember the guy?” And you're like, “No, I don't remember him.” “He does the thing about his mother stole the car and got arrested?” “Oh, yeah, him.” You know? We know each other to that point by our acts and our bits. So when you steal, we know where you took it from. Yeah, Mencia and the Cosby thing. And the thing about that is, if you're going to steal, you don't steal from Bill Cosby. You know what I mean? Don't steal. If I'm going to do a joke, you know, I'm not going to do a Goonie-Goo-Goo bit. You know what I mean? People might recognize that one, you know? Shane Eddie Murphy. Alonzo Bodden Yeah, exactly. So I don't understand that. I can't speak to that. Again, if I'm aware of the jokes being done by someone else, I won't do it. Now there's—and I don't know who to credit it to—but there was a comic who said, “Look, there's only six jokes.” You know, there's the mother-in-law joke. The wife talks too much joke. The, you know, blah, blah, blah. You know what I mean? You could just put jokes into broad categories. Right? There’s romance. There's “I grew up broke.” There's, you know, “my parents didn't like me” or whatever. Now, if you use that broader brush, yeah, then we're all doing the same jokes, you know. The government is stupid. Yeah, we all know the government is stupid. So it depends on how broad a brush you paint with. But, yeah, doing the football joke from Cosby? And I'll give you an example when somebody owns something. Cosby's dentist bit is so good and so well polished, you won't even hear comics talking about “I went to the dentist.” It's like, “You know something? No sense talking about it because I can't do it better than that.” Shane Now, other than Mencia, who are some other notorious offenders? Alonzo Bodden I don't know, because I don't get into that. I don't—I'm not into pointing out who did something wrong. We’re in an era now, right? It kind of started around when we did Last Comic Standing because that's when you first started with message boards and blogs in the early 2000’s, and now it's grown into the whole social media networks. So, when we were doing Last Comic Standing, there'd be these blogs, and comics would talk all kinds of shit about who's not any good and this and that and the other. And Kathleen—again, a friend and a brilliant comic. She said, “You know, all this stuff—you know who writes all this stuff? Angry middle acts.” So I don't spend a lot of time researching who's a joke thief or why. Most recently, I guess there was a big controversy with Amy Schumer. You know, did or did Amy not steal bits from Patrice O'Neal or other comics? I saw the video. Yeah, it sure looked like Patrice's joke, but the other side of the coin is that Amy's one of the hottest and biggest names in comedy right now. I know Amy. I don't know Amy well, but we've met. We've talked. We're cool. I don't see any reason for Amy to steal a joke. You know what I mean? Amy's great in her own right. So I don't know how or why that happens, but I'm not going to sit down and debate with somebody over whether or not Amy's a joke thief, you know. Amy's doing great. Amy's on the cover of, you know, Vanity Fair or whatever it was. I’ve got my own problems. All right. I'm sweating, working, telling jokes in a fish restaurant in Naples. Amy starred in movies, so you know, maybe I could have learned something from Amy. Last I checked, I looked for my Oscars invitation. Didn't see it. [Laughs]. Shane What is a joke or a bit that you've written that you pat yourself on the back for coming up with? Alonzo Bodden I love my—I have a bit about diseases, about how every three years there's a new disease that kills us all, and then they go away. And I love it because it keeps growing. I think I first wrote it when we had the swine flu/bird flu thing, and then, since then, I've been able to add Ebola, and now I can add Zika virus. The joke doesn't go away. It's still—it stays topical and it stays current. I did a joke, an offhanded joke, at a—there was a fundraiser for Bernie Sanders at the Laugh Factory. I support Hillary Clinton, but I also like working at the Laugh Factory. So I went up, and I said, “Yeah, you know, you guys want me to support Bernie. You want me to feel the burn. Let me tell you something. It ain't easy for a brother to give up a white woman. That's a white woman with a lot of money. I got to stick around.” That joke came to me while I was waiting to go on, and it killed. I love that joke. You know, I absolutely love that joke. Sometimes that's how it happens. Sometimes it's a bit, a long bit, like my diseases thing that you work on and craft over a period of time. Other times, it's just a thought you have walking towards the stage, and it kills, and you're like, yep, got that one. So those are a couple of examples. Most of my jokes are not good enough, and that's just the way comics are. We're always thinking I could do this better. I could do that better. One of the things about being a topical comic is, because topics are always changing, you can't continue to polish a joke. For example, I have a bit about donating a kidney to my brother, which I did, by the way, and because that will always be true, I could work on that bit for months and ultimately get it to be a polished, really funny five minutes about the kidney donation, you know, which is kind of what happened with that. Then you have something else happen. It happens in the news, and then it goes away, and you can't bring it up again, you know, because people have forgotten about it, right? We have a very quick news cycle and a short attention span. So if somebody does something—to give you an example, you know, try doing a Paris Hilton joke. People are like, “Who? What?” And that's just an example, but now some people bring it back. Darryl Strawberry was very good to me in the ‘90s because I wrote a Darryl Strawberry drug bit, and Darrell just kept bouncing around to different teams taking the same drugs, and every year and a half I could bring the bit back up. Thanks, Darryl. [Laughs]. Shane Change the team name. What's a bit you've heard another comedian do, and you heard it and thought, “Damn, I wish I would have thought of that?” Alonzo Bodden Oh. Oh, without a doubt, the most genius one was when Chris Rock did the bit about a civil war, and on one side there’s black people and on the other side there’s niggas, and everything that white people hate about niggas, black people really hate about niggas. When he said that, I was like, “Oh, my God. That's genius, and it's been sitting there the whole time.” I first heard him do it in a club back when I was opening for Tommy Davidson because he and Tommy were on the road together, and this was in the mid-‘90s. I just heard him say that, and I was like, “Wow.” And then a few years later, he did it on his special Bring the Pain, which I think is one of the great one-hours ever done in comedy. He did the one-hour special on Saturday, and on Monday, the headline was “Chris Rock: Funniest Man in America.” So yeah, every now and then, you hear something like that, and you just drop your pen. Cosby would do that. You'd hear Cosby do a bit, and you'd be like, “Why am I? What am I doing?” Dave Chappelle, you know. Dave does things. Dave has a bit about accidentally going into the ghetto, and it's on Killing Me Softly or Killing Me Slowly. I forget the name of the special, but there's just jokes in it that—like he talks about being in the back of a limo, and the limo driver's on the phone, and, “What? He said what? Who? I'll be right there,” and then the limo driver says to the guy in the back, “I got to make a stop.” And it's so funny. You're like, “Yeah, that does happen. That would happen in the hood. A limo driver would do that.” So you hear something like that, and it's so funny and so universal, and the little parts around it are so subtle that I love that. Then there are other things. Now I'll give you an example of a universal topic that I heard a joke about and stopped doing. So every comic, every male comic, has talked about, when you're in the club and there's a group of women, how hard it is to take one woman out of the group, right, how hard it is to pull the one woman out of the group. So I heard Heffron do his bit about it, and he called the girl who blocks you “the goalie” and made it like a hockey thing. And when I heard him say “the goalie,” I never did my bit about that again. It was like, “Damn.” That was just—you know, just that word. I was like, “That was just great.” It just totally said—you know, it just, I don't know, captured the whole thing so well. I couldn't top “the goalie.” Shane That was interesting, your answer about the Chris Rock bit, because I was reading an article on Cracked.com. It was several months ago, and they were talking about famous comedians, and another comedian, a white guy, had mentioned that exact bit as probably the most important bit of comedy that had ever taken place. Alonzo Bodden Yeah, I don't know if I put it that high. I don't know if there is a most important bit of comedy that's ever taken place, but that was one of the funniest things and one of the most socially insightful things ever done. Shane Mitch Hedberg had a bit where he talked about how weird it was that comedians are always being asked to do films because stand-up comedy and acting are different skill sets, and I think he likened it to a chef being asked if he could go farm. Alonzo Bodden Yeah. Shane It almost goes without saying these days that if you're a comic, you're going to end up doing sitcoms or movies. They seem to go hand in hand. And, I mean, you've done a number of TV shows; you've done a number of films. Was that something you pursued, or were you asked to do it? Alonzo Bodden No, you don't—you know, it's very funny you mention that. It doesn't go without saying; you just hear about the people who were good enough and lucky enough to make it. Shane Oh, okay. Alonzo Bodden You know what I mean. Yeah, yeah, you know, I had a guy in Vegas last year. This guy asked me, “Would you like to do a sitcom?” And I said, “You know what you just asked me? You just asked me would I like to make between $50,000 and $100,000 a week. Well, of course.” Listen, we're in a lottery business, you know. When you get a network show, that is phenomenal, but it's very hard. It's hard, in a sense, that everybody wants one, and it's a combination of talent, luck, timing, and a bunch of other things. So there was a time when I would get jealous or resentful. Now I'm like, “Look, if you're lucky enough to make it to that level, God bless you. Good for you.” Some people are “can't miss.” There's a kid named Jerrod Carmichael. I call him a kid. He's about 30, 31—something like that. Can't miss. Jared was brilliant the first time I saw him. The first time anyone saw him, they're like, “Wow.” And he's got a really great sitcom on, and he's doing some movies, and he's about to do bigger movies. I've been lucky. You know, I've done some—like, my brother jokes about it. I played a bouncer. I've been a security guy to Leslie Nielsen, Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, you name it. I’ve played security in the movies. I haven't had a big break in the movies. I was taking acting classes. I had a great acting coach when I started to get good at it. I think my comedy career took off, and she was like, “You're so focused on that; do that.” You know, and in retrospect, it was kind of like when I came up, okay, through the ‘90s, and—nah, I wouldn't even say the early 2000s, but definitely in the 90s, there were two ways to go. You either went on a road to become a comic or you worked in LA. You might even have to work a day job, but you did sets at the small—now I'm not talking about the sets at the big club, Laugh Factory, Improv, I'm talking about sets at smaller clubs around town, and you did auditions and tried to make it on TV, you know. I joked that Craig Robinson—like, when I was on the road, Craig stayed in town—and I always joked that, “Yeah, Craig, good call on that one,” you know. But Craig's also—and Craig and I used to go on the same auditions, and the difference was he started getting them, and he's a talented actor, and he's very funny. And we had the same agent for a while, and we were at lunch one time, and the agent said, “Man, I got a comic who wants to be an actor,” which was me. And he said, “And I got an actor who wants to be a comic,” which is Craig. You know, it is a different talent. Some people have both talents on extraordinary levels. Billy Crystal was probably a great example of that—a guy who could do both to an incredibly high level. Dave Chappelle can do it, but Dave plays Dave. You know what I mean? In the movies. Kevin Hart—he's Kevin Hart in the movie. He's not acting like a Denzel or somebody who creates different roles. You know what I mean? Shane Yeah, I would put Robin Williams probably in that category too. Alonzo Bodden Yeah, Robin definitely was in that category. There’s quite a few who can do that, and it's an amazing—then you have some who you never would have expected it. Richard Belzer was a great comic, and I don't know who would have thought Richard Belzer would be the cop on Law & Order for 15 years. You know what I mean? So, yeah, they're different skill sets. I would love to do more film and TV stuff. I'm finding out my talent in TV is hosting. I love doing it. I'm pretty good at it. I didn't know I could do it until someone hired me to host this car show, and it went great. I was like, “Oh, yeah, that's easy. That’s natural.” So it's a tough thing, but when it comes to movies and TV, especially network TV, yeah, we'd all love to do network TV. Shane Any desire to get in on, like, the Comedy Central Roasts? Alonzo Bodden Yes and no. Personally, I just haven't had a great relationship in my career with Comedy Central. I don't know why. I've done great on roasts, and they've never looked at me or talked to me about doing them. Maybe it's part because I'm an LA guy, and most Comedy Central people are New York comics. New York is where comedy is right now. Everything in comedy is happening out of New York, other than a few sitcoms. But I don't really want to move to New York. It's not my thing. But yeah, Comedy Central? I can't explain it. I have no idea why. I’ve just never had much luck with them. I did a half-hour for them a long time ago, and I've done a couple of random shows, but I've never been much of a Comedy Central guy. Shane I want to shift gears a little bit from less of the entertainment aspect to more of the creative and sort of the daily habits, what it requires to make it in entertainment and show business. I'm curious about the amount of work and prep time that goes—when you're doing a special, whether it's Comedy Central or HBO or Netflix, how long does it take to write the material for an hour-long show? Alonzo Bodden Well, I'd say at least a year, and that's good. George Carlin used to do a new HBO special every year, and that was an amazing output because he had to do it at the level of George Carlin. So it takes time to write the bits and have them be that funny—funny enough that you want to put them on TV, that you want to use them as a special. So a year would be good. Just like I said, some jokes will come to you in a moment, and the joke is great. Other times, you have a funny idea. I have some funny ideas that I've never been able to make work, and I don't know why, but I've just never been able to word them properly or whatever. You have the idea. You can't make it work, and that takes time. Creativity is a constant for me. I learned from George Wallace. George Wallace would carry a pad all the time. I used to carry a notebook. Now I do it on my iPhone, but when an idea hits, I write it down. And as soon as I can, I get on stage and start trying to work it and see if something's there. But there's always going to be a file of stuff I haven't done, or I didn't do enough or just got away. Shane So your honing and your crafting process is done verbally on stage, and not so much just crossing out words and doing it on the pad? Alonzo Bodden Only because, over time, your brain gets trained to do that. You know what I mean? My mental editing process is much better now because I've been doing it so long. So where I had to do in the past, where I had to do step A, step B, step C, you know, now I can go directly from A to D. My brain just works that way. Shane Do you know roughly how many dates or how many shows—live shows—it would take you to work out a new bit before you feel comfortable breaking it out in a special? Alonzo Bodden It depends on the bit. Honestly, it depends on the bit. On my last special, there were bits that I did that I'm doing much better now that I hadn't even honed to the point I would have liked, but it had to do with the schedule and having to shoot. Shane Do you have any co-writers ever, or do you write all of your own material? Alonzo Bodden The only time I have co-writers, we bounce stuff off each other in a club, you know. Somebody hears a joke, and they're like, “Hey, I got a tag for that,” or “Hey, here's an idea you can go with.” I wish I spent more time collaborating with other comics. Early on, I did, and then, you know, you start traveling and doing your own thing. A lot of comedy is a very solitary profession. But one of the things—and in the past six years, I've become one of the old guys. I don't know when it happened or how, but young comics come to me for advice now. It's like, “Oh, when did I become the old guy?” But one of the things I tell them is to get together with other comics and work with other comics. Shane So if two comics get together and they write a bit, which of them gets to do it? Alonzo Bodden Well, you have the bit, right? So you say, “Hey, man, I got a bit, you know, about Donald Trump riding a donkey,” and you tell the joke, and the guy’s like, “Hey, that's funny, man, but what if the donkey, you know, was a sheep, and the donkey did this or whatever?” And then, you know, you rewrite it right, but it's your bit. You had the idea. You started it. That's how it works. You know whose joke it is going in. Shane Gotcha. And speaking of Trump, when you look at this current election cycle, are you looking at this more with dismay as an American citizen or with an excitement as a comedian because there's potentially material for years here? Which emotion wins out? Alonzo Bodden There really isn’t. See, that's something that, if you're not a comic, you think there's material. If you are a comic, there really isn't. How many ways can we say Trump is dumb and unqualified? It's actually boring at this point. Do I do it? Yeah, of course I do it. I try to come up with a different take on it, but, yeah, it's—you know, there's a lot of things, especially being a topical comic. Listen, I got so tired of talking about health care and gay marriage. It's like, “Can we get over it? Can we move on?” How long do we, as Americans, keep going with this? Racism? Do you know how tired I am of doing jokes about racism? How about we grow as a society so that there's no reason to continue doing jokes about racism? How about we get to a point where I don't have to talk about cops killing young black men? Wouldn't that be phenomenal? Wouldn't it be great to not write another—to not have to—not even write—to not have to dance around another mass shooting and talk about how stupid it is that we sell AR-15s at Walmart? That's my view on all this stuff. I'll do it, and I try to come up with a different take on it. Donald Trump—no, we don't want Donald Trump. The reason comics make fun of stuff like this—and this gets back to—I love the jester, right, because the gesture was the only guy who could talk truth to power. He could make fun of the king. He could say anything to the king, but it had to be funny, or else they’d chop off his head. I love that. I love that idea that you can say anything, but it has to be funny. So, as a comic, I would love—like, I'd love to not talk about Donald Trump, but you have to. I wish we could grow past—I wish the joke could be: Can you imagine Donald Trump thought he could be president? I wish that would be the joke. [Laughs]. Shane Do you dedicate a certain block of time to writing, or do you just jot stuff down whenever something pops in your head? Alonzo Bodden No. When it strikes me as funny is when I do it. Shane A lot of people—a lot of the public sees athletes or entertainers as people who only “work”—and again, I put that in quotations—they only “work” a few hours a week. You know, they do a show or they play a game, and people think that's all their job consists of. Alonzo Bodden That's right. I only work 45 minutes a day. The rest of my life is free. No, you know what they don't see? They don't see the airport, okay? They don't see the 6 a.m. flights. They don't see the checking into the hotel. They don't see the writing of the material. They don't see the—you know, they don't see you Tuesday and Wednesday night doing the material. They just see Saturday night. They don't see—for an actor, they don't see the numerous acting classes you went to, and they don't see the hundred auditions where they said “no” and crushed your hopes and dreams. They see the hit TV show, and now you make a million dollars a year. But that's the nature of the business, and don't get me wrong, I love all of that. I love getting on stage. Sometimes, my favorite time on stage is Monday night at the friends’ show and downstairs in a hotel off of Vermont in Hollywood because it's total freedom. It's total, like, “Yeah, do what you want. Talk for 10 minutes. Do what you want.” You know, that's a part of the creative process we love. That's why you see the superstars of comedy at the Comedy Cellar on Tuesday, at the Laugh Factory on Thursday, you know, because that's a part of the process. Personally, I love that part of the process more than the Saturday night show. You know, a long time ago somebody told me—he said, “Look, anybody's funny on Saturday night. Saturday night at the Improv, anybody's funny. Tuesday night at the Chuckle Hut? Your ass better be funny.” You know, when you work in a sports bar and they turn off the TV and say, “Now it's comedy time.” Oh, your ass better be funny because those people were watching the game. You know, that's the work, and I love that part. Shane Yeah, Kenny Dobbs, who's—he's the Nike and Sprite slam-dunk champion. He was on the show, and he was telling me about he had got drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, and he was working out with Adrian Peterson, and he was sort of blown away by Peterson's work ethic. And he goes, “Everybody thinks he's getting paid for what he does for three hours on Sunday. That man's getting paid for what he does ten hours a day, Monday through Saturday, that nobody sees.” Alonzo Bodden Yeah, and you know the thing they talked about—Tiger Woods is one of my favorite athletes of all time, just because he was so great. But Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, LeBron—those guys, they have all the natural talent in the world, and they work harder than anybody on the team or anybody in the game because they're like, “I got all this talent.” They're just competing with themselves to be the greatest. So that's the work. I admire that, you know? Shane I know this is a topic that comedians are sort of torn on. What are your thoughts on hecklers? Love them or hate them? Alonzo Bodden They're annoying. They're part of the job, but they're annoying. Usually, my open heckle line is: Look, you're just drunk tonight. I do this every day. Okay, I'm going to win, but if you want, let's go. As you advance in your career, you deal with hecklers less because people, more and more, are paying to see you. If you go to—we've been using Chris as the example. If you go to see Chris Rock do an hour, you don't want to hear Chris Rock make fun of a drunk. You want to hear what Chris Rock has to say about, you know, Barack Obama, or Donald Trump, or Cuba. You know what I mean? You want to hear what Chris Rock has to say, and that's what happens. So you deal with hecklers less, but it's part of the job. You have to deal with it. It toughens you up. It makes you quicker. That's one thing I love. I love the exercise of interacting with people to see how quick I am, to see what I can come up with. And then, a personal thing, I like to tie it together. So if I talk to five different people in the audience, I'm trying to figure out a way to tie those five people in, and when I do that, I love it. And people say I'm very good at it. I love it. It's tough to sell because of the producers, the powers that be, the gatekeepers. They don't see that because they don't come to the clubs. So they want to see polished material. They don't see creativity in the moment. Shane Two-part question. What is the most rewarding, and then what is the most challenging part about being a professional comic? Alonzo Bodden Money's rewarding. Money's nice. [Laughs]. The most rewarding part to me is the creativity. That's the most rewarding part. The most challenging part is the people who make the decisions, because, let me tell you, there's less than a hundred people who decide what gets on TV—you know, the development people, the executives, the suits, so to speak, right? They're not funny. They've never been funny. So your creativity, your skill, your art, your whatever you want to call it, is being judged by people who have never done it and have no idea how it works. Shane You said earlier that you're the old guy, and the younger comics are coming to you for advice. What kind of advice do you give? Not necessarily people who are in the business that are trying to grow, but people who maybe want to break into it. What do you tell aspiring comedians? Alonzo Bodden Oh, you can't tell them anything until they do it. See, comedy isn't like music. You can't practice comedy in a studio. You have to actually do it. That's the only way. There’s no—you can rehearse, in the sense of memorizing your first few minutes, and I tell people to do that so that when you get nervous, you still know what to say. The first time I went on stage, I froze, and my brain emptied. But you have to do it. So if somebody says I want to be a comic, I can't tell them anything. If somebody's been doing comedy for a year, two years, five years, I can tell them a lot. Shane So, knowing what you know now about the industry, if you were being as real as possible, what would you say if you were trying to talk someone out of pursuing comedy? Alonzo Bodden Well, you can't do it for the money. You know, if you're in it for the money, you'll give up because you have to work so hard and put up with so much shit that you'd be like, “Man, I could just get a job.” So that would be the first thing I told them. There's no money in this, you know, because initially there isn't. For a few people, there is, but for the most part, there isn't. And you have to love it, you know. I think it was—I forget who it was. Jay Leno I know he tells people, “Okay, quit your job, so you'll be fully committed.” And there was someone else who said—they said the advice they give someone when they say they want to do comedy, they say, “No, don't do it. You're not funny. You can't make it.” Because he said, if he can talk them out of it that easily, they shouldn't be doing it. You know, like I said, I had no doubt the first time I did it that this is what I was going to do. I didn't have a plan, and I didn't know how I was going to do it or make it. But I had no—it sparked that deep of a passion for me from the beginning, so I think you have to have that. Now, some people, they're like, “I'm going to do stand-up, you know, on my way to making movies,” or whatever. That's a different mindset, and it works for some people. I don't know, you know. Like I said, I don't judge anymore. Whatever works for you, works for you. Shane Where do you see yourself in five years? Alonzo Bodden Obviously, still doing stand-up. Hopefully, I get one more big shot. That's what I'm trying for now. I hope I get one more big shot at a TV series. I don't know about movies. I guess something—I'm starting to get a little luck in voiceovers. Maybe get to voice a cartoon or something. I would love that. But I'm just always trying for the next syndicated thing. That is something else that I tell young people that I probably should have had. I should have had a plan. I didn't have a plan. I should have learned more about marketing. Marketing is so big in the business now. It's always been big, but now you're totally expected to do your own marketing, you know? You're expected to show up with 50 or 100,000 followers. Shane Are there any specific things that you could point to that are on your career bucket list that you would love to tick off? Alonzo Bodden Let's see. That's a great question. Let me see. What haven't I done that I would like to do? Write a book, and the only reason I haven't done that is laziness. I need to write a book. You know, every writer says the hardest thing about writing is writing, which is true. I understand that now. Yeah, that would be one. You know, hooking up with Vanessa Williams, that ship's probably failed. Shane So let me ask you this about writing a book because I read one of Chris Rock's books, and I've read a couple of George Carlin’s, and their book was basically their one-hour special. Alonzo Bodden Right, I don't want to do that. I don't want to do that. Shane You want to do more like a memoir kind of thing. Alonzo Bodden Yeah, I want to write a book; either it's my ideas or it's my life. You know, a lot of comics—yeah, that's what you do. You take your act, and you transcribe it into a book. And no knock against that. It's just—that's not what I want to do. Shane This brings us to our—I've got the final 14 questions here that I ask everybody before we wrap it up. Alonzo Bodden Fourteen more? Gee, when do I get the check? Man, you're a pain in the ass. Okay, anyway. Shane It'll be there next week, but if you could hold off until October cashing it. All right. Alonzo, if comedy only paid the bills and not a penny more than that, would you still do it? Alonzo Bodden Yes, not even a question. Shane What talent or skill do you not have that you wish you did? Alonzo Bodden Dancing. Shane Fill in the blank. I'm a success if I _____. Alonzo Bodden Make a million bucks. Shane And I'm a failure if I _____. Alonzo Bodden Give up. Shane What is the single best piece of advice you followed to get where you are today? Alonzo Bodden Do the funny stuff. Shane What is a piece of well-intentioned advice you're glad you ignored to get where you are today? Alonzo Bodden [Laughs]. That's a great question. Early on, Jamie Masada—who's a good friend and he owns the Laugh Factory—told me I should be a sports comic. He said I should put on a uniform, go on stage, and talk about sports. I'm so glad I didn't do that. Shane What character trait do you like best about yourself? Alonzo Bodden Probably making people laugh. Yeah, that's it—making people laugh. Shane What character trait do you like least about yourself? Alonzo Bodden Shyness. Shane Out in front of people on stage, on camera, and you're shy. Alonzo Bodden Yeah, in my personal life, and many comics are. We tend to be loners and not interact well with people. I don't do well with people one-on-one. Shane Fill in the blank here. I believe every child should have the opportunity to _____. Alonzo Bodden Create. Shane If you could suggest one piece of self-improvement that everyone on earth would adopt, what would it be? Alonzo Bodden Live and let live. Accept others. Shane If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Alonzo Bodden Oh, that's a great one. Strength. Shane If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be? Alonzo Bodden Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Shane Two more. A hospitable nearby planet has been discovered, and you've been recruited to help colonize it. Your friends, your loved ones—all your needs will be taken care of, and you can take any three personal items with you that you wish. What are they? Alonzo Bodden Music. I guess, you know, an iPod or something like that. That would be one. A motorcycle. That would be two. And this is items, right, not people? Shane Correct. Alonzo Bodden Yeah, let's see. Music. A motorcycle. What would be my third thing that I would bring? Jordans. Shane Perfect. All right, final question. You have just won a lifetime achievement award, and we want to hear your acceptance speech. There won't be any music to cue you or rush you off the stage, so you can get to all of the “thank yous” that you need. Or if there's any personal cause you want to champion, this is your soapbox, so let her rip. Alonzo Bodden Right now? First of all, this is an undeserved award because I don't know what I've done that's so great. I would thank my mother for my sense of humor. My mother makes me laugh to this day. She's one of the funniest people I know. My brother is one of my best friends. I would thank my friend Darryl [sp] for all he's helped me in my recovery. You know, we didn't talk about that, but I've been in recovery for 28 years. He's been a huge help there. There were so many various people along the way. There's a guy named Vinx who's a singer-percussionist. He and Marcus Miller, the jazz bassist, I learned so much about creativity watching those two guys and listening to what those guys do. The list of comics is so long, but I would have to include George Wallace and Dom Irrera on a personal level. Jeremy Hotz, who makes me laugh all the time. The women? My friend Eva [sp] and so many women who have influenced me and helped me. There was a woman named Nicole [sp] when I didn't think I could love again who showed me that I could, even though the relationship didn't work. I'll always appreciate that from her. There was a woman named Jackie [sp] who showed me how fantastic a woman could be, and I'll always regret having lost her. But I would thank them for what they've done and for what they've influenced my life with. My first babysitter, Mama [sp], who taught me how to read and a bunch of other things in life. My grandmother, who showed, I mean, unconditional love, who showed me what a grandmother is. That’s all a grandmother is is love. That's all they are. And my mom's a grandmother, and she's the same way. Yeah. My father taught me responsibility. I appreciate that. You know, I could go on and on with this list. My parents taught me to read and learn things. They wouldn't answer your question. They’d say, “Look it up.” That was such great advice, and that helps me to this day, you know? And I thank everyone who's made me laugh. Yeah, I thank everyone who's made me laugh. That's it. That's what I got. Shane Well, that means you're officially off the hot seat, Alonzo. Alonzo Bodden Thank you. This was fun. Shane Yeah, I appreciate you doing this. It was great to have you on. Once again, thank you so much for your time. It has been a pleasure. Alonzo Bodden All right, thank you. Shane All right, take care. Alonzo Bodden Bye. Shane Once again, that was comedian Alonzo Bodden. For more information, tickets, and booking information, please visit www.alonzobodden.com. I'd like to thank everyone for joining me today. You are listening to the Live2cre8 podcast, and this is Shane Almgren reminding you to dream big, be inspired, and live creatively.






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