For anyone who paid attention to the early years of Last Comic Standing on NBC, Alonzo Bodden should be a familiar face. He was a runner up on the second season of the show. He then went on to win the third season which was effectively a showdown between the top contestants of the first two seasons. As you can imagine, this gave his career as a stand-up comic quite a boost. After his appearance on the show, he released a stand-up set in 2006 entitled Tall, Dark, and Funny. Who's Paying Attention? marks his first release since then.
This roughly hour long set represents a performance by Bodden in New York city. Even though this was my first time viewing Bodden in any capacity, I was pleasantly surprised by what he had to offer. Given that he won a comedy show where the populist vote matters, it's no surprise that much of his material is fairly mainstream in nature. Thankfully, with Bodden the specifics of his material are only a small part of his appeal. He has a fully formed comedic persona which enables him to confidently command the stage and put a fresh spin on topics that others have tackled before.
It's tough to summarize Bodden's thematic approach because, frankly, he's all over the place. Ostensibly, the titular question is meant to indicate that nobody has their eye on the big picture anymore because of all the minutiae that constantly distracts us. Bodden simply uses it as a springboard to leap into a variety of subjects ranging from the recent oil spill in the Gulf Coast to the Satanic temptation of sweaty man asses. With that said, he does occasionally (and annoyingly) force a connection between topics (where there isn't one) by repeating the phrase 'Who's paying attention?' over and over again.
Bodden's style occasionally shows traces of Lewis Black's smiling rage and George Carlin's mock amazement. He employs these tactics in moderation when talking about the difficulties of our current President and the fickle news media that has the attention span of a cocker spaniel. From there he bounces around to the silliness of airline questionnaires and the increasingly ridiculous rules of the TSA. A particularly fertile segment of his show highlights the insanity of racism in a modern world while another bit echoes Lewis Black's 'If it weren't for my horse' story to demonstrate how Sarah Palin broke Oprah's brain with the words 'Private Citizen'. As I said, he is all over the place.
If there is any aspect of the show that doesn't work, it would have to be the home stretch where Bodden talks about his family and the perils of being single. In any other comedian's set, this material would be good for a few laughs but after seeing what Bodden is capable of, this just left me cold. There is also a fair amount of hypocrisy in a bit where he admonishes folks for being obsessed with the cult of celebrity before ripping into Sandra Bullock for her choice in men. I understand the irony of what I just wrote but I'm not sure Bodden sees it that way.
Despite my minor reservations about the commonplace nature of Bodden's material and the forced attempts at thematic coherence, the fact remains that the man clearly has skills. He may flit from topic to topic and run out of steam towards the end, but for the better part of an hour he had me laughing with great regularity. So, to answer his question: I was.
The show was presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The image was fairly sharp with a color palette that went heavy on the reds and blues. I did notice some buzzing in the red (especially Bodden's shirt) and a few instances of shimmer and moiré. Other than that, this was a perfectly acceptable presentation given the nature of the material.
The audio was presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix. Although I would have appreciated a surround sound mix, I must admit that a joke sounds just as funny when told in stereo. The audio track was free of any obvious defects. Bodden's voice came through loud and clear with the crowd noise adding to the ambience but never drowning him out. English SDH subtitles were available.
There were quite a few extra features on this release. Dead Man Walking shows Bodden making his way from the dressing room to the stage and cracking wise while doing so. Whiteboard gives him a chance to pay mock tribute to Glenn Beck by assembling a timeline on (you guessed it) a whiteboard which takes us from the inception of CNN to the presidency of Barack Obama with stops along the way for killer bees, spinach and Dan Quayle. It's quite the history lesson.
The Wrist offers an explanation for why Bodden has a cast around his arm. It has to do with a nasty motorcycle accident and its messy aftermath. A brief Photo Shoot has him hamming it up while getting promotional pictures taken. This is followed by a reasonably long Interview that throws softballs like "What's your favorite color?" before ramping up the speed for scorchers like "Who's funnier than you?" and "Why aren't you famous?". It's fun and irreverent and shows that Bodden has a good sense of humor and a healthy distaste for the career of Jim Belushi. We close things out with a short segment called What I Forgot where Bodden makes predictions for viewers watching this DVD in the future. They mostly revolve around vampires and Sarah Palin.
Although I had never seen a set by Alonzo Bodden before, Who's Paying Attention? has officially put him on my radar. He may not offer the most challenging material but he attacks it with an energy that is infectious. He is a polished performer with true stage presence and that counts for a lot. A weak finish and an arbitrary theme prevent the set from being an unqualified success but there are real laughs to be found here. Recommended.