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Potholes v Presidential election: it makes Alonzo laugh

AlonzoBodden has been to the island 14 times to host the annual Just for Laughs event (Photograph Jeremy Deacon)

Alonzo Bodden is well known in Bermuda as the Just For Laughs host. Here he speaks with The Royal Gazette about his loathing for cancel culture, his unusual path to becoming a stand-up comic and what the future holds

He could, he says, always make people laugh and, unlike a lot of us, has no fear of talking to a room full of people.

The latter was something he discovered when working for McDonnell Douglas after going to Aviation High School in Long Island, perhaps not the usual route to becoming a stand-up comedian.

“It was something I was born with,” Alonzo said of his innate ability to amuse people. “I got it from my mother. My mother had a great sense of humour.

“When I started at McDonnell Douglas, I was training new mechanics. It was my first time getting in front of a room of people talking, which scares the hell out of most people. To me, it was the most natural thing in the world. I wasn’t the least bit nervous.

“So when you put those two together, I’m in front of people talking and I’d make people laugh naturally. Then I said, ‘you know, I want to try a stand-up’.”

He was getting laid off and made an agreement with himself not to look for another job. He did a comedy writing class and the graduation was a five-minute routine.

“I never looked back. I never looked back from that five minutes. I knew that this was what I was going to do.”

He had no job and no money in the bank, but he said: “If something’s meant to happen, things fall into place.

“A friend of mine worked as a transportation guy for a TV show, a little known kids show called Power Rangers,” he laughs. “This was before people had heard of it. This was the pilot season.

“He said to me, ‘hey, you could drive a truck, right?’ I said, ‘yeah’ and they gave me a job.”

He worked for them for four years ending up doing some of the monster voices. “I'm friends with all the original Power Rangers,” he said with a smile. “And yeah, I still have my crew jacket from the first season.

“I was fortunate because that job allowed me to pay the rent because I started late, you know, I started doing stand-up at the age of 30. Most people start in their late teens, early twenties.”

His big break was getting on Just For Laughs in Montreal and his career since then has taken in a huge range of shows and performances.

He hosted the US reality show 101 Cars You Must Drive, has performed on numerous television shows, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, co-hosted Inside the Vault on WGN America and he was a panellist on a BBC America year-end television debut special of Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me!

He clearly has a soft spot, though, for Just For Laughs. “I’ve had a long relationship with them. They’ve been good to me over the years.”

It is also why he comes to Bermuda so often. “The shows are fun. It’s a fun getaway weekend for us comics.”

Asked why he came so often, he said: “Why wouldn’t I come to Bermuda? Like, if you’re getting invited to Bermuda for four or five days every year, why wouldn’t you come?”

The show used to be at the Southampton Princess, where he would tear up the golf course — and not in a good way — and he now stays at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club.

“We play golf horribly. But they would let us just hack up their golf course every day. That was super fun. And now we’re at the Hamilton Princess, where you can just walk to everything downtown.”

The people in Bermuda, he said, are great, “because they’re friendly”, but he admits to being unable to figure out reinsurance.

“The running joke is what is reinsurance, which nobody knows. It’s a scam run by Bermuda,” he said with a chuckle. “No one knows exactly what it is, but somehow you guys continually make money off it.”

He added: “I think I'll just keep coming until you let me in on that one, until I can get a piece.”

Alonzo grew up in New York and lives in LA “and then you come here and everything is so small and local. And the news is just funny because it’s potholes. That’s the big story.

“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but in the States, we have a Presidential election with no candidates. We have one who doesn’t know anything and the other who can’t remember anything.

“That’s our choice. So potholes would be a refreshing problem.”

What makes him laugh?

“Irony and unintended stupidity is very funny. And then also sometimes slapstick,” he said.

He is a huge car and bike enthusiast. During this visit he was walking and “saw this guy with his scooter, and it had everything”.

“It had carbon-fibre parts and special wheels and suspension. And I was like, ‘this dude’s taking a scooter seriously’.

“This guy’s got thousands of dollars just looking at him, and it’s funny, but it’s cool. But it’s just something you don’t expect. That kind of stuff makes me laugh.”

Observing everyday things also feeds into content for his act.

“As a comic, when I just walk around, I see things, experience things, I have to talk about it because it strikes me as funny. And there are times when, I think, comedians are surprised that no one else sees that.

“It’s like, ‘you don’t see how funny that is? Well, let me tell you. And then we say it and they’re like, wow, that was funny’.”

Comedians get up on stage and bare their souls, asking the audience to laugh at something they hope is funny. Is that high pressure? “We don’t see it that way,” said Alonzo.

“I appreciate it when people say that it’s hard work and that you have to be brave.

“To me, it’s the most natural thing there is. I couldn’t imagine not doing it. During the pandemic when we had to sit at home and not perform, we were going nuts, you know. A friend of mine, his wife said, ‘would the pandemic please end so I can get him out of the house? He has to go away’.

“A friend of mine, Keb’ Mo’, a brilliant blues musician, said that someone asked him, ‘what’s your creative process?’ He said, ‘well, I live and then I write about it’.

“I was like, man, that’s a perfect description. So I don’t see it as this brave, it’s just something I do. It’s my job. I’m lucky I found my passion.”

Comedians have found themselves on the wrong side of cancel culture, most notably his fellow US comic Dave Chappelle over jokes about transgender.

“It’s so overrated,” said Alonzo. “I would love to be cancelled. Why? Because every time Dave Chappelle gets cancelled, he makes another $10 million. So if there’s a way that you could somehow get me cancelled, I could use $10 million.”

He then leans close to the mic on the recorder and booms: “To all your readers, no matter what ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation, whatever they might be, I hate them. You hear that? I hate you. Now cancel me. Please.” He was joking.

“The people who are making those judgments, they shouldn’t go to comedy because they have no sense of humour.

“The audience is always the judge. I’ve been to shows where somebody is on stage and they are obviously racist or sexist or anti, you name it.

“It’s one thing to do a joke about gay people. It’s another thing to do a joke about hating gay people. It’s one thing to do a joke about immigrants or Black people or women. It’s another thing to say you hate them. And the audience knows right away. They can tell.”

As for the future, Alonzo has just started working on his next comedy special, which he is planning to perform on the club circuit.

“It’s a lot of fun. Clubs are the most creative places. A friend of mine who played in Rod Stewart’s band and did a show in South America, in front of 100,000 people, said the best show is in a room where you could see everyone’s eyes.

"I’ve always loved stand-up. I have friends who are comedy superstars, and that’s great, but not everyone’s going to make that.

“You’ve got to find something you love. If you get into a creative endeavour with only the hope of making money, you will be miserable.”

The last Just For Laughs show is tonight. Details can be found atwww.comedyevent.bm

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Published February 24, 2024 at 7:57 am (Updated February 24, 2024 at 9:01 am)

Potholes v Presidential election: it makes Alonzo laugh

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