Alonzo Bodden has been working the stand-up circuit for over 20 years, and has a long list of tour dates, appearances, and credits to prove it. He’s arguably best known for winning Season 3 of Last Comic Standing, and regularly appears as a panelist on the popular NPR show Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! You can also listen to him on his podcast, Who’s Paying Attention, and see him record an episode live at the LA Podcast Festival this weekend.
Paste sat down with Alonzo at Vivian’s, a diner-style cafe with outdoor seating in the Studio City neighborhood of LA. He zipped up on his motorcycle, ordered an omelette, and talked with us about touring, eating, and the combination of the two.
Paste: Performance-wise, what are some of your favorite cities?
AB: I love working in Montreal and Canada in general. Canada is very smart, very progressive, and they love comedy and support it. D.C. is great too, very smart. And Vegas. Stuff is open all the time, so after a show you can eat real food; you don’t have to eat fast food.
Paste: What do you typically eat when you’re on the road?
AB: I usually eat simple: sandwiches, salads, fish, and try to stay away from too many hamburgers. I’m not a traveling gourmet. I’m not a foodie. Food to me is fuel and nutrition. I enjoy it, but food as art has never been my thing. You go to restaurants with beautiful presentation, but then you have to go someplace and eat after.
Paste: What kind of restaurants do you visit on the road?
AB: If I don’t know where to go, I go to chains because they’re safe, and the worst thing is if you get sick. I have a pretty cast iron stomach, I so rarely get sick, but you never know. I often end up at Chili’s or TGI Friday’s because they’re everywhere.
But if there’s somebody there—somebody who works at the club, or somebody you know in town—and they know a place, then you go there. Mal Hall, a comic I work with, loves pizza. Anytime we go somewhere, he has to find a pizza place, see if it’s the best pizza.
Paste: Do you often go out to eat with other comics while you’re on the road?
AB: If we’re friends, we’ll go out and do lunch during the day. Otherwise, comics… we tend to go our own ways. Schedules are different. Some clubs, like in Chicago or Seattle, places like that, you work with local comics. So they have a life locally, and they’re not necessarily going to hang out and go to lunch. And then you also have young openers, and they may not want to spend money going out, because they’re getting paid nothing.
Paste: Do you have any before or after show food rituals?
AB: You don’t want to eat before a show, because you’re lazier [on stage]. A coffee before is my ritual. My worst habit is the late night snack. I always love a snack after the late show. Chocolate, candy, or ice cream. Something sweet.
Paste: Do you try to watch your diet?
AB: I try to eat healthier. The smaller the town, the harder healthier is. As a friend of mine jokes, it’s easy to be a vegan in LA. Vegan in Kansas City—you’re going to have to work a little harder. If anything, I’ve found I eat lighter now. There’s sometimes, like this Saturday, I’m doing a show in Carlsbad at the Palm Theater. I’ve know the guys for years; they’re all old road comics. A lot of times when I’m there, we’ll go to Denny’s after the show, just for old times sake.
Paste: What are some of your favorite clubs for food?
AB: Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach has good food. They have a good firecracker shrimp and good salmon, some pastas and salads. It’s a good menu. The Improv Comedy Clubs have always tried to make food work. I think it’s a dream of theirs to have you come and have dinner and see a show. The Irvine Improv has partnered with Umami Burger, so that’s good. Tommy T’s in Pleasanton (just outside of Oakland) used to be a steakhouse, and they turned it into a comedy club and somehow kept the steak. I don’t eat steak that often anymore, but I eat there.
Casino gigs are okay if they give you casino cash so you can eat anywhere in the casino. But Vegas casinos suck for food, because they want to send you to the employee cafeteria, which is basically the buffet from yesterday.
Paste: How do you feel about touring these days?
AB: In the last six years or so, the road has gotten tiring. Travel is so much worse now, and about six years ago I started to get tired of airports. But that’s the gig. That’s the price I pay to do what I love doing. And I love stand-up, really love it.
Laurel Randolph is a food and lifestyle writer hailing from Tennessee and living in Los Angeles. She enjoys cooking, baking and candlestick making. Tweet at her face: @laurelrandy.