Dubh Linn comedy night lands Steve Hofstetter (ONLINE EXCLUSIVE)
"I get a lot of hate mail." Steve Hofstetter says this during his sets -- a lot. In fact, there's even a section of his Web site dedicated to archiving the particularly nasty letters he receives (as well as his spot-on rebuttals). It's not that t...
"I get a lot of hate mail."
Steve Hofstetter says this during his sets -- a lot.
In fact, there's even a section of his Web site dedicated to archiving the particularly nasty letters he receives (as well as his spot-on rebuttals).
It's not that this New Jersey-by-way-of-Queens comedian is naturally unlikable; it's that he isn't afraid to attack this world's hypocrisies and injustices head on.
One good example of this is the cover for his 2006 album "Cure for the Cable Guy," which depicts a doll bearing comedian Dan "Larry the Cable Guy" Whitney's likeness in a noose fashioned out of TV cable. It wasn't just for shock value, however; the liner notes that accompanied the release urged fans to rally against, among other things, Whitney's homophobic rants.
That album's follow-up, "The Dark Side of the Room," was released on SteveHofstetter.com. Following Radiohead's pricing model for its latest, "In Rainbows," the comedian invites fans to pay whatever they want for the album. Price options ranged from 1 cent to nearly 100 dollars.
In addition to his career as a social observer, Hofstetter is also an established sportswriter, contributing to organizations as varied as ESPN and National Lampoon (where he published "Balls! An In-Your-Face Look at Sports").
In anticipation of his show Saturday night at Dubh Linn -- scroll down for details -- Hofstetter took some time out of his busy touring schedule to answer our questions.
Budgeteer: I really liked the cover of "Cure for the Cable Guy" -- did Whitney ever comment on it directly? Were you at all worried his fans would just dismiss it immediately and not listen to what you had to say?
Hofstetter: He never commented on the cover, but we were on the radio together, and he took a shot at me in the New Yorker. From what I understand, he can't do an interview without someone asking him about me, Doug Stanhope or David Cross. He said I was being hurtful -- which is odd, because I find his character's homophobia and racism to be the same.
I never intended to reach his fans. I intended to reach the people who hadn't yet made up their mind on that kind of comedy. I have nothing personal against Dan Whitney; I just wanted to start a conversation, and I feel the album did that.
That album was recorded three years ago -- and you're still asking about it. I think it did its job.
Now that the redneck comedy fad has come to an end, what topics are you crusading against/educating listeners about on this year's release, "The Dark Side of the Room"?
I still speak about most of the same categories: politics, race, religion, etc. I just update my material. Now I'm talking about everything from the housing market to elections to road construction. That last one is an example of putting sugar in there to make the medicine go down.
Speaking of the new album, how has your pay-what-you-want experiment panned out? What do most people pay when albums are presented that way?
Pay-what-you-want has been fantastic for me. I've made more money on this album than I did on my last one, my fans have paid less per album, and more albums have sold. People usually pay either the retail price or nothing -- but the average I get is way more than the $1.50 I'd get with a label.
You seem to have a pretty nice second career going as a sportswriter -- as a comedian, do you find "straight" sports writing dry, or do the two approaches work together?
I never do straight sports writing anymore, and never really did. Even in news stories, I always tried to be clever, if not funny. Sure, you're handcuffed more when you're not writing opinion, but usually the sports I write involves opinion.
Similarly, is it easy for you to go out to a club and enjoy another comedian's set? Or do you approach it on a different level, like constantly thinking, "Well, that joke would've worked better this way...."?
I can enjoy a show, but not from a table -- I watch from the back. There are a number of times when I'm at a show in NYC or LA that I make sure to watch specific acts, because there are a ton of comedians I can still learn from. And I enjoy comedy. The problem with being a comedian is you do lose your laugh reflex. Because I don't appreciate a joke for how funny it is, I appreciate it for how well it's written. If a joke actually does make me laugh, then I know it's a good one.
Looking over the "Cable Guy" liner notes, you thank a lot of comedians, like the late, great Minnesotan Mitch Hedberg -- which one of your peers has influenced you the most? Are there any comedians you've regretted doing shows with ... maybe where your crowd and theirs really didn't share the same ideals/sense of humor?
I thanked Mitch even though I never met him -- for the inspiration he gave me. Granted, I also thanked the New York Mets. The comedians that have influenced me the most are probably Bill Hicks, Jerry Seinfeld, Mitch Hedberg, Eddie Izzard, Doug Stanhope and Jim Gaffigan, but all in different ways.
I've clashed with a few comics, but never anyone big. I'm a pretty agreeable guy, so for me to really clash with someone, they've got to be extremely abrasive. I had an MC mad at me once because when he was going over his time, I held up the light to tell him to wrap it up. Most MCs would have apologized for taking too much time on stage. But he got angry that I would "disrespect" him.
Part of being a comedian is having a need for attention, and those who don't get enough of it can get bitter and jaded. It is rare that you meet a successful comedian who is also a jerk. But there are many jerks to be found at the open mics.
You were one of the first comedians to really target the social network crowds. Was there ever a point where updating your MySpace and Facebook profiles (responding to "friend" requests, etc.) felt like it was eating up too much of your time?
Hah -- that happens every day. But, at the same time, if I don't answer my messages, then I'm not accessible. I remember getting letters back from some baseball players I wrote to when I was a kid and how thrilled it made me. If someone takes the time to write to you, you can take the time to say "thank you."
If someone's reading this at home and still has no idea what kind of comedian you are, how would you describe your style?
I'm a social critic, and I don't pull punches. But I do ice you after I hit you. I might say something that goes completely over the line -- but when I do, I'll take a step back and bring everybody past that line. Well, not everybody. Some people aren't willing to leave their comfort zone.
NEWS TO USE
Comedian Steve Hofstetter will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, at Dubh Linn Irish Pub, 109 W. Superior St. Denis Donohue is also on the bill. Cost is $10. Must be 21. To promote the show, Hofstetter will be on KQDS (94.9 FM) at 8:30 a.m. Friday. For details, visit www.stevehofstetter.com .