Comedian Steve Hofstetter targets the 'thinking man'

September 07, 2012|By SUSAN FAIR | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Comedian Steve Hofstetter recently performed at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Submitted photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — It's no joke:  Steve Hofstetter never planned on becoming a comedian. 

But today he has appearances on programs like the "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" (host Ferguson called him "delightfully funny") and Showtime's "White Boyz in the Hood" under his belt, and more than half a million fans and friends on social networking sites. 

Oh, and there are also those 300 or so live comedy performances he does every year.

Just like the one last week at Shepherdstown, W.Va., where he's a familiar face — as he performed to a students-only show at Shepherd University.

So how did the guy who never planned to be a comedian end up in comedy?

"Through a crippling fear of failure, a disregard for authority, and a desperate need for attention," Hofstetter said.

In fact, the path to performance was paved early for the Queens, N.Y., native when, at age 13, a cute girl told him to join a school improvisation group. 

"If I had a spine I might not be a comedian," he said. 

The girl in question bailed out of the improv group, but Hofstetter stayed. 

"I was hooked," he recalled.

Comedy took a hiatus while Hofstetter attended Columbia University in New York. Finally, during his senior year, he took the stage for the first time as a stand-up. Still, he had no plans to be a professional comic.

After graduation, however, Hofstetter failed to land a job. 

"I was sleeping on my father's couch," he said. 

He decided to return to stand-up. This time, comedy stuck.

"I'm very lucky that I was rejected," he said of all those fruitless job applications.

Now 32, Hofstetter is known as "the thinking man's comic," and his album, "Cure for the Cable Guy," reached No. 20 on the Billboard comedy charts. For anyone who would like an idea of what his unique brand of comedy is like, Hofstetter suggested they "think — 'The Daily Show' — if it were on HBO."

Hofstetter, who writes all his own material, was an original writer for the popular website He has also penned humor columns for Sports Illustrated and the New York Times.

"Writing is at the heart of all of this," he said of his comedy. 

Another key element of comedy?  "Surprise,"  he said. "If everything you say is a joke, then nothing is funny." 

Citing Bill Hicks, Jerry Seinfeld, Mitch Hedberg and Dave Barry as his comedic influences, he said his biggest influence comes from another field all together: sports. 

"Jackie Robinson," Hofstetter said. "It wasn't just that he did something heroic. He was also a really good person."

Hofstetter likes touring — "to a degree." He used to spend about 300 days a year on the road, but having gotten that number down closer to 75 he said he can enjoy time spent on the road a lot more. He recently returned from two weeks of shows in England, and said "I do like being paid to go on vacation, which is basically what it is. I get to see the world."

And yes, Hofstetter has even been to the greater Hagerstown area on several occasions. He recalled a visit to Shepherdstown fondly. 

"My favorite thing about Shepherdstown is the mini-house. I took a picture in front of it," he said, referring to the Shepherd College "Little House."

Hofstetter said in the coming years audiences can expect "bigger and better things," and added "I'm doing some stuff for TV and movies." 

Meanwhile Hofstetter, who said "My dad used to play me old comedy records when I was a kid," credits his family with being "super-supportive" of his demanding career. 

"I think they see how happy it makes me," he said. "I really enjoy being funny."

To download a free copy of Steve Hofstetter's album "Dark Side of the Room" go to

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