​Comedian Alonzo Bodden sees himself as a modern court jester

Photo by Troy Conrad Alonzo Bodden

Comedian Alonzo Bodden will headline four shows at St. Paul’s Laugh Camp Comedy Club on March 25 and 26.

Bodden was the season-three winner of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” after finishing runner-up in 2004. The Queens, New York native told the MSR, “I call that my introduction to America. I would say winning ‘Last Comic Standing’ was big because America voted on me.  That was a great moment for me.”

However, Bodden’s career in the comedy business evolved after high school. He first became an airplane mechanic and once worked for two of the country’s largest airplane manufacturers. 

Then he became an instructor and quickly found that his teaching approach was a hit with his airplane mechanics students. “I just had more fun making them laugh,” Bodden recalled. 

When he got laid off, “I took this comedy writing class and had a five-minute set,” he continued, “and I never looked back. I just absolutely loved it. It was training airplane mechanics that led to a comedy career.”

Bodden’s career took off to new heights, no pun intended. He once appeared on “Just For Laughs,” the world’s largest international comedy festival held each July in Montreal, Canada. “I was invited to do [a show] on new faces in comedy and just had a great set,” he recalled. 

“There [were] managers, agents, producers, comedy club bookers—they were all there. So that was definitely my first big break.”

Bodden has traveled the world over to perform his stand-up. He also made cable appearances on “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” and “Comedy Central Presents” and worked the comedy club circuit from coast to coast.

Bodden also appeared on such late-night shows as “The Tonight Show” and did guest shots on such television shows as “Dr. Ken” and “Fresh Off the Boat.” He has two comedy specials—“Historically Incorrect” (Showtime) and “Heavy Lightweight” on Amazon Prime Video.   

He’s credited with recording five comedy CDs and appeared in six movies, including “Scary Movie 4” (2006) and “Why We Ride” (2013). “I still don’t know if I’m successful,” he claimed. “I just do it because I love it.”

No topic is off limits for Bodden as he uses his comedy bully pulpit for social commentary. Comedians are this century’s court jesters, he stressed. “The jester [in medieval times] was the only guy who could speak truth to power. He could make fun of the king. It has to be funny… I still think that’s the comic’s job.”

This is why he regularly goes after U.S. presidents. Former President Barack Obama, America’s first Black president, wasn’t spared in the least in Bodden’s routines. But current President Joe Biden is someone he hasn’t yet got a handle on, he admitted.

“The biggest material with Joe Biden is that we don’t hear from Joe Biden,” Bodden said. “It’s refreshing to not hear from a president every five minutes because he’s actually working.

“The funny thing was when Barack Obama was president,” he noted, “he was so popular. I used to tell people all the time as much as California loves him, that’s how much Alabama hates him.

“Unfortunately, that was the backlash” that led to former president Donald Trump’s election in 2016: “I was disappointed with Trump winning, but that showed who America is,” Bodden noted.

Over the past year, Bodden has been on MSNBC’s “Ayman Mohyeldin Reports” and “The Week with Joshua Johnson” providing commentary on a range of topics from politics and pop culture to sports and entertainment. “Laughter makes the news palatable,” he stated. “That’s how they can handle it coming from a comedian.”

The comedian also is a regular on NPR’s weekly news quiz show “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.”

“I always joke that I’m not a Black guy on NPR. I’m the only Black guy on NPR,” Bodden joked. “The thing I like about it [is] that it relates to my material and it’s always topical. It’s always talking about what’s going on in the news right now. I love doing NPR.”

He also has a podcast, “Who’s Paying Attention.” “It’s got a steady listenership,” Bodden  said. “But it’s not a breakout podcast like, for instance, ‘Two Dope Queens.’ Their podcast caught fire, made them stars, and their podcasts became an HBO special. If I knew how to do that, I’d be doing it.”

On coming to the Twin Cities, Bodden said he looks forward to it, hoping that the Minnesota reputation for cold weather will not be confirmed during his visit. He’s looking for people to come out and laugh. “Laughter still crosses many lines and demographics,” he pointed out. “I’ll be there doing [it] in the Twin Cities.”

After his St. Paul appearance this weekend, Bodden heads to scheduled gigs in Phoenix, New Jersey and the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut in April.

Bodden’s next world to conquer is what he called a “dream gig.” “I would love to host some kind of news comedy show. That’s something I’d love to do, so we’re still working on that. That may come one day.

 “I’m satisfied in the sense that I make a living telling jokes,” he said. “So, at the end of the day, you can’t complain too much about that.”

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