TORONTO — Alonzo Bodden made his debut at Montreal’s Just For Laughs as part of the New Faces show in 1997 and has been a popular performer at the festival ever since.
He’s back at JFL this month as star of his own show, running July 21 to 26; as a featured performer in galas hosted by Don Rickles on July 23 and 25; and in the All Star Show at Club Soda from July 16 to 19 and July 24 and 26.
“I’m just short of renting an apartment and paying taxes, maybe getting health care,” Bodden says of the amount of time he’s spending in Montreal.
In addition to being a familiar face at JFL, Bodden is well known for his appearances on Last Comic Standing (he was runner-up in season three, winner of season four and a judge in season five) and on late-night talk shows and movies like the Vancouver-shot comedy Scary Movie 4.
The 52-year-old New York native, speaking to Global News from Los Angeles, says he is looking forward to being back in the Canada.
“Montreal is a great walking around city, which I love. I live in L.A. and we walk to the parking lot.”
Bodden says he enjoys shopping, even though the exchange rate isn’t as favourable to Americans as it was 17 years ago. And, he says, the city offers something else he enjoys.
“Literally, some of the most beautiful women in the world are walking around so how can you not like that?,” says Bodden. “Everyone talks about strip clubs in Montreal. I’m like, ‘that’s redundant. Just walk down the street.’”
Bodden says an occupational hazard is people coming up to him on the street and expecting him to be funny. Still, he says, “being recognized is so much better than not being recognized so I’ve never complained about it.”
READ MORE: Full coverage of Just For Laughs
For his JFL show, entitled “News is Not the News”, Bodden will share his thoughts on stories of the day.
“The show’s going to be almost interactive because I’m literally going to be reading the paper and going through the news items that happened that day and talking about them that night,” he explains.
“Of course, there will be some evergreen stories that we’ll have fun talking about. It’s going to be a great show. I’m looking forward to doing that.”
Coming up with funny material on the fly is a challenge Bodden says he loves.
“It makes the show organic. The audiences are into it so I hopefully will get some latitude to create in the moment and we’ll have a good time.”
Of course, there’s nothing about Canada or its citizens that’s worth joking about, right?
“I wouldn’t insult you guys at all, are you kidding? How can I make fun of a place that gave us Justin Bieber and Ted Cruz?,” Bodden says, adding its likely a certain corpulent crack-smoking Toronto politician will get mentioned.
“Let’s face it, Rob Ford…we love him down here in the United States.”
Bodden says it’s fun to come north and poke fun at his home country.
“You guys know more about the United States than Americans do. I think it’s that whole reading-on-a-regular-basis thing you guys have going on,” he explains. “Our culture is our biggest export. That’s why it works, because people know what’s going on in our country. Getting to see your home from the outside looking in is always a lot of fun.”
Bodden thrives on analyzing the short attention span of the American public.
“Three weeks ago the biggest story in the United States was a convict named Meeks, who they put his mugshot up and he looked like a male model. Women were going crazy for him so we had that story going on,” he says. “Then we all became soccer fans. We switched right over to the World Cup without missing a beat and then we realized, ‘Hey we’re really not that good in soccer, what team is LeBron going to play for?’ And so on.”
Bodden says he gets plenty of material from politics and the U.S. habit of obsessing over social issues.
“Our political news has become absolutely hilarious. My favourite political story right now is watching Dick Cheney blame Barack Obama for the problems in Iraq. Just the fact that he can do that with a straight face, you almost have to admire it. Wow, Mr. Cheney, there really is no limit to evil,” he says.
“The Supreme Court — the decisions they’re making. Just look at the faces of the five tired old men who are telling women how to handle their bodies and birth control. Really? These are the experts? And again, every social issue that we agonize over that brings our country to a grinding halt, you Canadians seem to handle pretty easily.
“We fought gay marriage. Up in Canada you guys are like, ‘well it’s cold, let them get married and keep each other warm.’ And you move on.”
Bodden says he won’t do material about someone he genuinely doesn’t like, lest it come across as a rant rather than comedy. Otherwise, nothing’s off-limits — as long as it’s funny.
“My idol in the world of comedy is the court jester because the jester was the only guy who could speak truth to power,” he explains. “He was allowed to make fun of the king, but if it wasn’t funny they chopped off his head. I kinda like those odds.”
During a Just For Laughs show in 1999, Bodden told the audience he didn’t like hockey because “the only thing black is the puck and every time I look, they’re hitting it with a stick.”
Bodden says his feelings for Canada’s beloved sport have changed, thanks in large measure to Winnipeg-born Ryan Reaves of the St. Louis Blues.
“I was doing a fundraiser in Winnipeg and joking about black hockey players and he came up to me after the show and said, ‘I’m a black hockey player’ and he taught me about the game,” Bodden recalls. “I’ve been to a couple of hockey games and I’m learning something about it.”
Bodden acknowledges black players like P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens and Ray Emery of the Philadelphia Flyers. “There are some brilliant black hockey players now, and I love that,” he says. “Everyone’s happy about that, except NASCAR. NASCAR is really nervous.”
Bodden even seems proud the L.A. Kings won the Stanley Cup.
“Down here in L.A. we’re not sure what that means but we understand it’s a good thing,” he said. “You guys are not happy about it at all and I think that makes it a little more fun.”
Bodden admits he would love to do more work in movies and television (“the money’s great and people recognize you more”) but he doesn’t plan on giving up the microphone.
“I couldn’t imagine not doing stand-up. I love doing it,” he says.
“Some people give it up and I can understand but I think I’ll always be one of the guys who has to get up on stage. That’s the drug. I gotta get up there.”
Alonzo Bodden stars in News is Not News from July 21 to 26 at the Salle Claude-Leveille in Place des Arts. He is also part of the All Star Show from July 16 to 19 and July 26 at Club Soda and July 24 at Metropolis; and the Don Rickles gala on July 23 and 25.
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