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Comedian Alonzo Bodden on tackling hecklers: ‘I do this every day’

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You wouldn’t think anyone would try to disrupt comedian Alonzo Bodden while he’s working but he says it does happen on occasion, and he’s always prepared. At 6’ 4”, the winner of the third season of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” is a formidable physical presence, but Bodden says he doesn’t need to go there.

“I simply remind them that they’re just drunk on a Friday night, but I do this every day. So the odds are pretty good that I’m gonna win,” Bodden said with a deep laugh.

Bodden’s new comedy special “Heavy Lightweight” premiered last week on Amazon Prime Video, and finds the funny man doing what he does best. I caught up with the regular panelist of NPR’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” to talk comedy, cars and podcasts.

The Maine Edge: Your new special “Heavy Lightweight” strikes an interesting balance between tackling issues in the news and more mass-appeal content that everyone can relate to. You shift back and forth quite seamlessly.  

Bodden: I didn’t want to do an hour of pounding people over the head with reality. One of the hardest parts of my job is to be funnier than the actual news cycle. We’re living in a time of heavy news, so I like to balance that with lighter topics – like my home internal battle between Siri and Alexa. Don’t ask me who’s winning that one.

TME: For “Heavy Lightweight,” how did you decide which issues to tackle?

Bodden: I touch on race, immigration issues, and the #MeToo movement for some of the heavy stuff. I lighten it up to talk about everything from fast food to millennials. There’s one topic I haven’t been able to decide if it’s heavy or if it’s light: Kanye.

TME: What changed for you after your 2004 win on season 3 of “Last Comic Standing?”

Bodden: That was my introduction to America. Back when I did it, it was still a reality show, so people got to see us live together in the castle leading up to the finals. A side benefit of winning a reality show on a major network was getting to meet a lot of cousins I never knew I had who oddly needed money (laughs). I told them “I made it this far without you. I think I’m going to be OK.”

TME: You add so much to NPR’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.” What do you enjoy about doing that show?

Bodden: I absolutely love the creativity on that show. Going in, I never know what the questions are going to be and it’s fun to riff on them. There will always be at least one question on the show where I have no idea what Peter (Sagal – host) is talking about. Sometimes those are the most fun. I have no idea what he’s talking about but let me see what I can do.

The demographics on that show are impossible to chart. We joke about it mostly being NPR nerds, but I was doing shows in Pakistan and had people come up to tell me they listen to the podcast. I bumped into Dave Chappelle, who said “Man, I love you on ‘Wait, Wait…”

TME: You’re a well-known car enthusiast. If you could drive only one car for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Bodden: Porsche 911. It’s the greatest car I’ve ever driven. Don’t ask me how I would carry luggage, I would just enjoy life in a Porsche.

TME: When you started your podcast “Who’s Paying Attention?” it was a relatively new concept. The pool is pretty crowded now. Do you think the podcast bubble will burst?

Bodden: We joke about it on “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” that the tipping point will be when everyone has their own podcast and we all have to listen to each other. My podcast “Who’s Paying Attention?” deals with topics in the news or something a little heavier than a joke but sometimes I just talk about the ridiculousness of it all. A friend of mine told me that podcasts are the new jury duty. I think that’s a pretty accurate description.

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