There are a few reasons Alonzo Bodden is glad to be bringing his comedy act back to Winnipeg, but this one's probably the simplest to explain:
"It's a summer gig."
Bodden, a New York-raised, Los Angeles-based comedian, has an indelible memory of his first visit to this city and Rumor's Comedy Club, which took place in the decidedly un-summer-like month of January.
"Actually, this is my Rumor's moment, my Rumor's memory: I was at Rumor's when I first got the call that I had been accepted to do Last Comic Standing," Bodden recalled. "It was January, it was 40 below, and my sinuses froze. I had never experienced that before. And when they asked if I wanted to come back to L.A. and do Last Comic Standing, I was like, 'Yes!'
"So when they offered me the chance to come up in the summertime rather than the winter, I jumped at it."
Actually, despite his chilly introduction to our windswept Prairie town, Bodden — who headlines at Rumor's this week from Wednesday to Saturday, as well as performing tonight at the 40th "Y" Sports Dinner — has developed quite an affection for this place.
"I've had some great times at the club, and at the sports dinner," said Bodden, who has appeared at the annual Rady JCC fundraiser twice before. "I met Pete Rose there one year; I still see him sometimes at Caesar's Palace (in Las Vegas), and he remembers me, which is cool. And last year, I met Joe Montana, which was fantastic — we had a flight at the same time the next morning, and we sat around at the airport talking about old aches and pains. How great is that?"
Bodden, who turned 50 earlier this month, added that his affection for Canada runs deep — it was at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival in 1997 that his appearance at the New Faces show basically launched his professional comedy career.
"That's when I became a comic," he said. "That's when I gave up the day job and I was accepted by other comics — the guys I looked up to (including the likes of standup veterans Dom Irrera and George Wallace) were suddenly talking to me like I was one of them. That was huge."
Bodden, who was working as an aircraft mechanic in L.A. when he first decided to try his hand at standup nearly 20 years ago, counts his appearances on NBC's Last Comic Standing as his other major career break. After a runner-up finish in the show's second season in the summer of 2004, Bodden took home the LCS title (and $250,000 top prize) in Season 3, which pitted the top comics from the first two seasons against one another.
"Last Comic Standing was my introduction to America," he explained. "When I was on the show, it was still a hit, and at its peak, we had anywhere from eight to 12 million viewers a week. So when you were walking through airports, people would recognize you — I mean, they'd still strip your clothes off and search you before you boarded the plane, but at least they would call you by name while they did it.
"When you get a break like (Last Comic Standing), it's a matter of trying to maintain the momentum it creates."
Bodden said he had no problem with the reality/competition contrivances that were built into the NBC show — essentially, the comics were forced to live under the same roof for a month during taping, and producers often tried to create feuds by pitting one comic against another, but the performers on the show all understood what was going on.
"We knew that was part of the game, so we didn't take it personally," he said. "The producers actually got mad at us, because by Season 3, we were all professional headliners who knew each other — a lot of us had worked and travelled together — so when they tried to make us fight, it didn't work.
"Comedy is competitive, but not in that way."
The rise of his comedy career has actually afforded Bodden the opportunity to pursue another of his life's passions — fast motor vehicles. Since winning LCS, the comic has acted as host of the Speed TV series 101 Cars You Must Drive and the (U.S. cable) Travel Channel series America's Worst Driver.
"I've been a gearhead all my life — I love cars and motorcycles — and when people in the business found out, they called on me to host a couple of cool shows," he said. "The other thing that's nice is that they'll let me borrow stuff. And here's the difference between me and Jay Leno: They let Jay keep the stuff — 'Hey, Jay, here's a new Harley'; with me, it's like, 'Hey, Alonzo, here's a brand new Audi; you can drive it for a week.'"
You can check out Alonzo Bodden's standup at www.alonzolive.com
Wednesday to Saturday
Rumor's Comedy Club
Tickets $17 (Wed./Thurs.) and $20 (Fri./Sat.), available at Rumor's