ALONZO BODDEN – LOVING THE LAUGHS AND THE RIDESFebruary 21, 2019
You may have recognized this Tall, Dark and Funny comedian and actor from the reality-television series Last Comic Standing. He has performed on numerous television shows, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Make Me Laugh, Late Friday, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, Comedy Central Presents, and It’s Showtime at the Apollo. His love of machines has brought him to host] the Speed TV program 101 Cars You Must Drive and America’s Worst Driver.
Alonzo has spent the better part of his life as a die hard motorcyclist. Due to this fact, he is a regular MC and ambassador of many Motorcycle events around the globe. While he was standing still, we caught up with him to find out more about the man, the myth the legend: Alonzo Bodden.
MS: First thing first, we know that you’re a comedian, I wanna know your growing up, your personality. Were you always just a funny character?
Alonzo: Yeah, I was funny but I wasn’t the class clown. I was a guy who I always had a smart remark, smartass answer, so I would like to say it to the guy next to me in class and then he would bust out laughing, and he’d get in trouble. and I’d be like … I get it from my mom. Actually, we have a whole family of smart asses. Like if you did something stupid in our house somebody saw it and the comment was coming but my mom was always just really funny so that’s absolutely where it came from.
MS: That’s awesome. How does she take to seeing your stand-up?
Alonzo: Yes, she wouldn’t come to many shows because she said that watching me felt like when your kid is doing a ballet or a dance recital, and your kid might fall. She said it always felt that way no matter how long I’d been doing stand-up. So she’d prefer watching it on TV. She said when it’s on TV I know it’s good. She came to some shows and I did that at one show. I told the audience how nervous my mother was and I was like if you would please laugh so she can rest easy and it was a lot of fun. She loved that I did it.
MS: That’s awesome that it stems from her, you know? But a lot of people can be funny but not necessarily a comedian.
Alonzo: Yeah, it’s different to be funny onstage, but everyone who met my mom would be like ‘oh I see where he gets it from.’ The interesting thing about comedy versus other talents (because I’ve worked with people who are you know actors, musicians, etc.) people always think they can do comedy because they’ve made someone laugh but it’s not the same. But I love it, I love doing it and I found it was, how should I describe, a latent talent for me. My first career was aerospace. I was an airplane mechanic for about ten years, then I started training new mechanics and I had more fun making them laugh than I did talking about the aircraft. When you have to spend eight hours on different types of bolts, it can get a little boring. So I would always tell them stories of things I did and laugh. I said ‘wow I want to do this.’ So I took a comedy writing class. When I did that first five-minute set, I promised myself to never look back, I was never gonna work on airplanes again and I started doing open mics and working at it, and now I seem to have figured it out.
MS: That was a big risk to take, honestly
Alonzo: You know everyone thinks so and I guess it was, but to me, it wasn’t. From the first time I did stand-up, it felt like the most natural thing in the world and I never imagined doing anything else. It felt right from the start. It was what I loved doing and what I wanted to do.
MS: That’s great that you’re in this position that you could do every day what you absolutely love to do as your career.
Alonzo: It’s a gift. I make a living doing what I love, which unfortunately not a lot of people do, and I still love it on stage. There are two places I’m at home; on stage and on a motorcycle. Those are the two most relaxed places I can be. Anywhere else and I’m actually a mess. It’s really odd and you don’t want to be around it. The dance floor is not going to happen, but a stage or motorcycle is very much at home for me.
MS: We saw you riding in today, you had a BMW bike.
Alonzo: Yes, today I was riding my BMW, it’s called the GS 1200 adventure.
MS: It looks very fun and adventurous.
Alonzo: It is. It’s a big bike made to go anywhere. Ewan McGregor made that bike famous by riding them around the world. They did a movie, him and a guy named Charley Boorman, called ‘The Long Way Round’, where they rode them around the world. It can go off-road and it can go in dirt, although I don’t ride dirt roads. This bike is tall, so it has a presence but it also handles great. I like to describe it as an elephant that can dance ballet. It also has an aggressive look to it that I like. As crazy as it sounds, it’s a perfect LA city bike. I love it.
MS: Perfect for you in general. I mean, you’re a big man.
Alonzo: I would say that’s the case for everything, except I also have a Honda Grom, which is a little 125cc (practically a minibike) which I bought because when I was a kid my dad would never let me have a minibike. So I grew up and the Grom came out and I said ‘I don’t need to ask, I can buy one myself.’ So I did. People laugh at me when I ride my little Grom, but I just love that thing.
MS: So are your knees like up here? (holding her knees up to her chin)
Alonzo: No, surprisingly I’ve learned how to make bikes fit me. You lower the pegs and raise a seat, but yeah I look ridiculous on it. There’s a bunch of us big guys who ride Groms and we all look ridiculous, but we’re laughing the whole time so it’s all good.
MS: As long as you’re enjoying it, the suffering doesn’t matter right?
Alonzo: I’m a motorcycle nut and a car nut. If I’m laughing when I’m riding or driving it, then it’s right. I laugh because it’s fun. I mean, you gotta commute. You have to get from point A to point B so it might as well be fun.
MS: Absolutely, I love that. Because again, your career is to make people laugh and then you’re saying just in your personal life you like to cruise and laugh. I mean is there a day that ain’t laughing?
Alonzo: Oh yeah. I mean, sometimes we’re hilariously funny off stage and other times we’re horribly depressed. It’s real and there are two sides of the coin. I think all comics have a dark side and I think comedy comes from dissatisfaction. I do a lot of stuff that is social commentary. I talk about politics, racism and all it is, and the dissatisfaction is we could do better as a society. So I use humor to say ‘why are we still stuck on this’ but there are times when it gets dark. A nice thing about being a comic is that my friends just happen to be some of the funniest people in the world, so when we laugh, we really laugh.
MS: That’s great. That’s something I want to know personally about because you do a lot of controversy in your comedy. Are there times that you like okay maybe I’m going too far, maybe I shouldn’t say this.
Alonzo: No, you can’t go too far. One of the great moments I’ve had in comedy was opening for George Carlin. I got to talk to him and he said ‘take them over the line, then make them glad they came.’ I did and my greatest moment was in Houston in the beginning of November, 2004. The weekend after George W. Bush got reelected, I just went off on the audience. ‘How could you reelect this idiot what were you thinking.’ It got them laughing, they might not agree with you but it’s funny. That’s the best you can do. There are people who have walked out of shows, but what are you gonna do? You can’t please everybody and that’s okay.
MS: How many motorcycles do you own?
Alonzo: Right now, I have four and a half. I have my GS adventure, the BMW, an Indian Chieftain, a Triumph Rocket III, and the Grom. (The Grom counts as half because its little.) We’re building a CBX. The X was a six cylinder motorcycle made by Honda back in the late 70s early 80s. At the time, it was a technological masterpiece, unbelievable that they built a six cylinder bike. We’re building what we like to call a street fighter.
MS: Do you ever make drunk purchases late at night?
Alonzo: No, I am retired from drinking. I have 30 years in recovery and that’s part of why I love all of that I get to do. When you go through recovery and sober up, it’s like a second chance. bikes are part of that. I am a hundred percent sober when I make a crazy purchase late at night and then say ‘what am I gonna do with this.’
MS: So you take full responsibility.
Alonzo: I can’t blame the bottle.
MS: So where did your passion for motorcycles come from?
Alonzo: When I was a kid my grandmother had a farm in South Carolina with a dirt road from the highway to the house, about a mile long. A family rented land from her and their son had a motorcycle. It was either a triumph or a BSA, I know it was a British bike. He would take us for rides on the dirt road on the back of the bike. When I got on the back of that bike something happened, it was the greatest feeling in the world and I fell in love with it. I tell people my favorite place in the world is in my helmet. Its a lifestyle. At a place like Lucky Wheels Garage, some people come here and work on their bikes while others just come to hang out around other bike people.
MS: What is your favorite bike?
Alonzo: Whoo! that is a tough one. I’d rather give you some of my dream bikes. The Ducati Desmosedici. The Honda Goldwing. A big, super comfortable touring bike. I always told myself that one day I’m gonna get a wing and just relax and ride back and forth across the country, that’s on my list. There’s always something new coming out that I would like.
MS: I have to ask, a couple of years back, you got into a motorcycle accident?
Alonzo: Yes, and I’m very flattered because on Wikipedia they wrote it up like I was a professional motorcycle racer and had a dramatic crash. I was on a Ducati 1098 sportbike riding on a practice track and I came out of a turn going too fast. I had a crash which we call a ‘high side,’ the bike launches you in the air and when you’re in midair time is slow. I broke my wrist it was wasn’t that bad but somebody wrote it up on Wikipedia. It’s so funny because motorcycle racers are like jockeys, literally half my size. So if I was a racer, I’d be the worst one in the world. I’ve broken my right wrist twice, thirty years apart. I did it when I was 18 on my first bike, and again on the Ducati when I was 48.
MS: I mean it wasn’t bad enough to have stopped you
Alonzo: I couldn’t imagine not riding. I understand some people give it up for physical reasons; knees, hips and as they get older some people have an accident or a close call that scares them. I think that the trick is don’t ever stop because if you stop it’s hard to get going again, so you just keep riding.
MS: It seems that it keeps people young.
Alonzo: Oh yeah. It is somewhat physical, but it’s also the atmosphere and you’re having fun. When you’re on a motorcycle, you’re a part of the environment.
MS: Again, we know that you love comedy, we know that you love motorcycles. Is there anything else that you’d love to do that we don’t know about?
Alonzo: I eat too much. I do like basketball. I’m a big basketball fan, Clippers fan. I’m a baseball fan and I grew up with the New York Mets. So sports are the escapes. There’s a big touring rally in New York called Americade. About 30,000 people over the course of a week and they bring me in to do shows and I get to do shows about motorcycles for motorcycle people, so that’s always really fun. Other companies have hired me and had me do things with them, so that that’s fun when my two passions intersect. Jay Leno has a show, Leno’s Garage he’s had me on to do different things with motorcycles. Most recently, we rode the Gyro. A Russian bike that is still built the way it was in World War II.
MS: Do you have any shows, or anything coming up that we should look out for?
Alonzo: Always. I have a new CD out it’s called Man Overboard available on iTunes, look it up, you can find it. I am always traveling, my website is Alonzobodden.com, I also do a show that’s really fun it’s called Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. It’s on NPR, a news quiz show. I have a podcast called Who’s Paying Attention.
Check out Alonzo at alonzobodden.com
Producer: Dakota LaPalme @kotasaurusrex
Photographer: Brittany Garcia @brittany_isabel
Videographer: Walter Jeffrey Thomas @uglyblackboy
Stylist: Phil Keophaphone @fresh_philly
H/Mua: Jihan Lewis @jihancheveu