The three comics at the Tampa Improv this weekend didn't win NBC's Last Comic Standing, but if you followed the hit show, you know they've got the chops.
By SHARON KENNEDY WYNNE
Published August 19, 2004
Alonzo Bodden finished second in the voting in this summer’s Last Comic Standing.
Fans of the summer reality TV series Last Comic Standing can get an encore as three of the show's most popular finalists hit the Tampa Improv this weekend as part of the I'm Still Standing Tour. Alonzo Bodden, Gary Gulman and Jay London will take the stage for seven shows tonight through Sunday.
Last Comic Standing tries to be a cross between American Idol and Big Brother. It locks up the contestants in a house with nothing to do but bicker and promises the winner national exposure and a comedy special.
The NBC show got more popular in its second season, earning much better ratings than the first, especially with the all-important 18 to 49 age group.
Bodden and Gulman were in the final three on Aug. 12. Bodden came in second to winner John Heffron, and Gulman took third. Tampa Bay area viewers didn't see the finale that night because of hurricane coverage on the local stations. Reruns have aired on Comedy Central.
Bodden stood out as a favorite among celebrity judges Rich Little, Phyllis Diller and Norm Crosby in a roast at the Friars Club in one episode, with sets that tended to be edgier than most.
"I love black women," Bodden says in one of his signature bits, "but I like white women, too. That's why I can't hate white men. 'Cause we need them for breeding."
He even chastised the audience for hammering him on the show's Internet message board for telling mean jokes. There's no such thing as a mean joke, he insists, especially if it's funny.
"I do go to the edge but not just for the sake of doing it," Bodden said in a phone interview from New York. "People call it edgy, but it's true."
The way the show is structured, with viewers electing the winner, Bodden said, "You are in trouble if America thinks you are mean."
Gulman, the hunk of the group, hails from Boston. He often was underrated by some of his fellow comics, who picked him twice for one-on-one showdowns, confident they could beat him. Gulman stayed; his competitors were gone. Though it was unnerving, Gulman says it meant he got the most air time.
The third installment of Last Comic Standing starts taping at the end of this month and promises to be more Idol than Big Brother. No more house lockup. Instead, the show will pit the comics from last season against this year's group.
"From top to bottom, our house had better comedians," Gulman said.
Gulman tries to be more like Seinfeld than Chris Rock, riffing on subjects such as his deep love of Oreos:
"Now they make Oreos with chocolate in the middle. Chocolate in between chocolate. Oreo, have you been reading my diary? Because this has been a fantasy of mine for some time now."
London was the oddest of the group, with a swamp of shoulder-length hair and hunched-over posture that put him, as he put it, "fourth guy from the left on the evolutionary chart."
Viewers were so taken with the big lug that they voted him back in after he had been eliminated in a head-to-head competition with Gulman.
His style is almost a throwback, full of one-liners and self-deprecating remarks.
"I told my therapist I was having dreams about nuclear explosions. He said "Relax. It's not the end of the world.' " Cue the drum roll.
Now that the show is over, the comics are happy to ride its wake into comedy clubs across the country. They even arranged for the third season to tape only on Monday and Tuesday so they can spend weekends on the road.
Bodden makes only one stipulation about his former roommates:
"I never stand next to Gary. I stand next to Jay London. No pictures next to Gary."
PREVIEW: I'm Still Standing Tour, 8 and 10:30 p.m. today through Saturday,, 7 p.m. Sunday, Tampa Improv, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. $14-$18. 813 864-4000; www.tampaimprov.com