Comedian Alonzo Bodden draws much of his material from the news — so needless to say, he’s got a lot to work with. The Queens native took home the grand prize for the third season of “Last Comic Standing” and is a regular on NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” He also hosts his own current events comedy podcast (“Who’s Paying Attention”) and his second special for Showtime, “Historically Incorrect,” aired in February.
Bodden comes to Laugh Boston for three nights of shows next week. We chat with him about the election, his alternate universe careerpath and what you can't make fun of in Boston.
Since this election we’re going into is so divided, are there any topics, political or cultural, that you can’t really touch on in your act? Is there anything that’s too sensitive?
Not really, because as long as it’s funny, audiences don’t mind. I was in North Carolina two weeks ago and I hammered them on the transgender issues. For one thing, comedy club audiences tend to be more open minded and Ted Cruz people don’t laugh, so they’re not going to shows. It’s not something I worry about, because the greatest comics are the most opinionated. Lewis Black and George Carlin aren’t sitting back and thinking, “I hope I didn’t upset anyone.”
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Does anything go over an audiences’ heads? How many news references can you fit in there before not everyone gets it?
You have to educate people about what you’re talking about. I have more time to waste reading the news than most people so I may have to educate audiences on a particular story or bill during my act. For instance, I joked about Oregon legalizing marijuana and the difference between recreational marijuana and medicinal. The only difference is you have to pay a doctor $30 and tell them your leg hurts.
What did the people of Oregon think of that joke?
Portland loved it. They love when you make fun of Portland. They love when you make fun of anything about them except the Trail Blazers.
What topics can’t you touch in Boston?
You guys are very sensitive about the Red Sox but that’s about it. When I first worked in Boston, coming from New York City, I thought I’d have issues because Boston won two World Series and [New York] won 26, and somehow that’s supposed to be the same. See— that joke might get me killed.
How difficult is it to change your subject matter based on the news cycle?
I can still throw in a line or two about Ben Carson or Cruz, but no one cares about Chris Christie. Like if something happens like Larry Wilmore drops the n-word at the White House Correspondents Dinner, I have to talk about it, but then a lot of my jokes aren’t polished because I don’t have the time. I’ll mix them in with things that are more evergreen that are continuously funny to make that bit much better.
If you weren’t a comedian, what would you be doing?
I used to be an airplane mechanic. That was my first career, so I’d still be fixing airplane or selling cars. I did it very briefly because if you’re a comic and a talker, you can pull it off. See how I lost every car salesman in the audience right there?
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