"It's not that lump-sum cheque; it's the fact that now you've moved up in the comedy game where
our name is worth more money. So you get paid more to do the clubs that you had been doing.
Also, the doors open to a lot of clubs and a lot of gigs that we hadn't done before."
– Alonzo Bodden
Guy MacPherson: Is it Bodd-en. Or is it Bode-in?
Alonzo Bodden: Bode-in.
GM: But there are two D's!
AB: I know. Don't ask me to explain, but it is Bode-in.
GM: Okay. Alonzo Bode-in. The last comic standing. Literally the last comic standing. Is that correct?
AB: Thank you for knowing that. You don't know how many times I get, "Whoa, you shoulda won!" Because no one saw the end of season three. They didn't televise it. So people don't know. But I did win. And unfortunately because of networks and lawyers and so on, the show probably won't be coming back so I will be down in history as the last comic standing.
GM: Was it bittersweet? I mean, obviously at the time you must have been elated. And then to find out that the network cancels it! The very last episode!
AB: Yeah. And to tell you the truth, it was funny. Because if you can imagine, you're part of this show and it's well rated. You've got fans. You've got the whole thing. You go through all the eliminations, right? The pressure every Tuesday - am I gonna make it? Am I gonna make it? You do the final one. America votes. And they didn't even tell us the results. They just called us the next morning and said, "Oh, we cancelled the show." So you're only reaction is to laugh. You can't get mad. You're like, "You gotta be kidding?!" And then the second question is, "Well, did I win?" And they say, "Well, we can't tell you because we might do another episode." (laughs)
GM: So you won. I assume the winner gets some sort of prize.
AB: I got the huge prize. This is another thing that's funny. The prize on the previous series had been $50,000. When I won it, they had increased the prize money to $250,000.
GM: Oh, because it was Season One versus Season Two.
AB: Right. So I can't complain too loudly when they gave me 250 grand.
GM: That's not bad. How does that affect you psychologically getting that much money?
AB: Well, it's almost like it's not real. Because you get this cheque, right? And then the first thing you do is you pay your taxes and you pay your commissions to your agents and this and that, and you're like, "Hey, wait a minute. I thought I won $250,000?! What's this $30 cheque?" But it's security. In our business, with the ups and downs, and this and that, when you get a lump sum of money like that, it provides some security. I bought a house. I mean, not cash, but it was a great down payment on a house, which makes it an investment. And it was sweet. Again, I can't complain. I mean, yeah, I went out and bought a few toys. I bought a motorcycle, a giant screen TV, and stuff like that. But it does move you up a notch on the food chain.
GM: Does it make you lazy?
AB: Not at all.
GM: Can you still relate to the common man?
AB: Oh yeah. Yeah, I'm far from rich. But you know what it does? It actually, in some ways, puts more pressure on because now when I go to a club they know who I am and they have some expectations. So they're not just coming to Joe's Chuckle Hut and whoever's on is whoever's on. They're like, "We bought tickets to see Alonzo Bodden and he better be funny." So in some ways it makes you work harder. But for me personally I love it so much, and I love writing and doing new material, the thing that I had to learn – and John Heffron and I were talking about it – is that people will want to do jokes you did on the TV show, so you have to find the balance of how much new stuff I want to do but also give the fans what they want to hear. Fans'll tell their friends, "He does this great bit about so-and-so," and then when you go up, if you don't do it, "Hey, how come you didn't do that bit?" So you learn about it. But the money didn't bring any pressure; the money's a nice side benefit of doing what I love.
GM: I saw you on the gala last night. I thought most of it was new material, wasn't it?
AB: Yeah. Since the show, starting with Season Three, I personally kinda decided I'm going to retire all the material I did up until Season Two and try to do new stuff. Now, that's not 100 percent true; I still do some of the older stuff. But what I did on the gala is probably everything I've written in the past year. When major events come... I mean, we had the presidential election, which I am not happy at all about the result, but you know. That was a whole new topic. And Arnold Schwarzenegger being our governor, that's an embarrassing topic but you gotta talk about it. So new material always comes up.
GM: At the end of Season Two, you didn't win. John Heffron won. Does everyone else just get nothing? Thanks for coming out?
AB: Yeah. Yeah, basically. I mean, we make money because you're in the union and you get paid for being on television.
GM: And name recognition, too.
AB: Yeah, that's the big payoff. See, it's not that lump-sum cheque; it's the fact that now you've moved up in the comedy game where our name is worth more money. So you get paid more to do the clubs that you had been doing. Also, the doors open to a lot of clubs and a lot of gigs that we hadn't done before. And I say 'we' because it's not just me; that's happened for all of us. I mean, Gary Gulman,Tammy Pescatelli and Corey Holcomb, all of us are all travelling at a different level now.
GM: In Season Two, why did you align yourself with the weasels?
AB: I didn't. That was the funny thing. I'm gonna tell you how that worked. It's television. Right? And they want controversy. They want fighting. Ant knew how to work it. This is exactly what happened: After we were approved to go into the house, we had like three days to go home and pack or whatever. A bunch of us went to lunch together and it was basically like, "What do we expect?" This or that. It wasn't planning or plotting. I mean, when they tell you you're going to live in this place for thirty days and you can't have any outside contact, so we talked about it. So what Ant did was he made that 'The Alliance'. And the reason he said it was The Alliance is because he knew every time he said that, he'd get more airtime on the show. I'll tell you my only strategy and who I got it from: from Jay Mohr. He used to tell us this every week. He used to say pick someone you know you can beat. That's who you pick. And I personally would never tell people who I was going to pick. The only one time I told them who I was going to pick was Ant and Gary had kind of a feud going and they wanted... It was like a challenge to go up against each other. And we didn't want to allow Ant to back out so we all figured out who to pick to make sure Ant and Gary went against each other.
GM: And what's Ant doing now?
AB: Ant's doing exactly what he wanted to do. He hosts a show called Celebrity Fit Club on a cable network called VH1 where, I don't know what you call C-level, ex-celebrity, whatever, they literally have a weight loss contest between two teams. And he does a lot of those celebrity gossip shows and stuff like that. So I'm not mad at Ant because he did exactly what he wanted to do.
GM: Is there anyone from the show you wouldn't talk to now?
AB: No. No, I think I was friendly with everyone on the show. The only person I didn't really get to know was Bonnie McFarlane.
GM: She left early.
AB: Yeah. It wasn't any dislike or anything it's just that she was the first one eliminated so we didn't get a lot of time to sit around. My thing was, I got to know Kathleen Madigan, who I only knew by name and is fantastic. Same with Corey Holcomb. Gary and I had already been friends. Tammy and I were friends but we got to know each other much better. Jay London – made friends with him. Fantastic guy. So I really didn't have any negative experience. The only fights I got into were with the producers.
GM: Oh yeah? What for?
AB: The producers would change the show. Their job is to produce a TV show. So if they had an idea that they thought this is going to make the show better, they would kind of change the rules or try to manipulate things. And I always felt that that was kind of a disrespect for us comics. So I would get into arguments with them about doing things like that.
GM: When you were a young up-and-coming comic, did you ever enter competitions?
AB: I did. I actually have a lot of experience in competitions because they were the way to get on TV. So it started with me, I did a show called The Next Big Star on a little cable network called PAX. It was hosted by Ed McMahon and it was modelled after. I won that. I won a car. Which is when I learned how much money it cost to win a car. Anyone listening to this, if you want to win a car you need financing to win a car. It costs thousands of dollars.
AB: You have to pay sales tax on the car. Then you have to pay registration on the car. And then you have to pay income tax on the cost of the car. If the car
is, say, $30,000, you have to pay income tax on the $30,000 income.
GM: So did you keep the car?
AB: No. No, what I did was I sold the car to the dealer. Basically they gave it to me, I paid the registration to own it, I sold it right back to the dealer, bought a cheaper car, and took the difference in cash.
GM: Excellent. You know, if you win something in Canada – of course, we don't have these big competitions – but you don't have to pay income taxes
on winnings. So if you win the lottery, for instance, you don't have to pay income taxes on that.
AB: I probably should move to Canada. If you guys could warm up the winter a little, it sounds good.
GM: You've played Vancouver and Victoria before, haven't you?
AB: I love Vancouver. I'm not sucking up. I really do love Canada. Canadians are so great because you guys have a great sense of humour and you know all of our references. If a Canadian comic came to the States and made a joke about Canada, we'd be like, "Where? I heard of it."
GM: Now that's an exaggeration surely.
AB: It's an exaggeration, but I'll give you an example: Americans don't know about provinces. We think Canada is just a series of cities.
GM: Or states, maybe?
AB: No, we don't think of it as states. We know you don't have states so we just think there are cities in the wilderness.
GM: But you now know all about Canada. You've been here lots.
AB: I know a lot more about Canada than the typical American. I wouldn't say I know all about it. But yeah, I've learned quite a bit.
GM: How many times have you been here to Montréal at the Just For Laughs festival?
AB: This is my fourth festival. They have been fantastic to me. A whole range of shows and a couple of tours. They treat me great.
GM: Is it still a relevant comedy festival in the industry?
AB: Absolutely. Because although they don't make the same deals that they used to – I mean, they used to make development deals and write big cheques up here. They don't do that as much, but it's still the opportunity for a whole lot of people to see you at one time in a great situation in a full venue, a full room or whatever, as opposed to you trying to get a meeting with them and then coming in and trying to be funny in a conference room for eight network
executives that would rather not laugh.
GM: And it's a great schmooze-fest, too, isn't it? And hang with other headliners.
AB: That's the best part for me. You get to hang with other comics. You get to watch other comics because we don't see each other. We see each other's head shot in a city as we're passing through: "Hey, I know that guy. Yeah, I know that guy." And once in a while we cross paths in L.A. but this is the week we get to just hang out. We get to watch each other. I go to shows and Jeremy Hotz, one of my favourite comics and a good friend, I get to see Jeremy. I get to see
Harland [Williams]. So many people that I just get to go see and be a fan of theirs.
GM: Do you still, at this level, learn from other comics?
AB: Absolutely. Absolutely. I've learned more at this festival watching, for example, Dom Irrera. Dom's brilliant. And I still learn if I watch Dom Irrera. You definitely learn a lot. And what I've been trying to learn now is the TV side of the business. How you develop and try to get a TV show done. I think I'm pretty good at the standup part and I love the standup part, so I think my next level is to learn the TV side.
GM: Reality based or acting?
AB: Both. I've done some acting. I can stretch as an actor. I've played a bouncer in numerous movies. But it's how to come up with an idea and then turn that idea into a workable TV show. That's what I want to learn. The reality based stuff... The hard thing is what are they looking for? What are they going to buy? I think we went through the phase of crazy reality shows where they were like, "Okay, we're going to just put people in ridiculous situations." And now that's gone, I think that talent-based reality shows are the ones people like the most. Like our show or
American Idol or The Contender. People seem to like it when you're living together for a reason, because you all have a talent, you're pursuing a dream. So maybe that will be something I'll come up with. I don't know. But it's kinda hard to figure out what people want to watch.
GM: You came to standup relatively late, didn't you?
AB: I did. I didn't start doing it until I was thirty.
GM: And you had a real career before that?
AB: I used to be an airplane mechanic. And then they started drug testing. And since then I've gone with the funny.
GM: So you were an airplane mechanic on drugs? That doesn't help someone like me who's a fearful flyer.
AB: No, I'm a comic. I throw in drugs because it's funny.
GM: (laughs) Oh, okay. That's good. Airplane mechanic. That's a very serious profession. Do you miss it?
AB: I don't miss it. It was fun while I did it and I got to do some great jobs in it. But once I left it, I never looked back. Because I love comedy. This is totally such a passion for me that I couldn't imagine doing anything else.