Daniel Solzman: Steve, thanks for joining the Kentucky Democrat today. How are things going with you?
Steve Hofstetter: It's going well. I just shoveled snow for the first time since I was a kid. It's not as much fun when there's no hot chocolate waiting for you afterwards, but I still felt all nostalgic.
DS: When did you decide that you wanted to be a comedian and why did you make such a decision?
SH: Six months after I was a comedian. At first I just did it because it was fun and a way to pay rent. But laughter is a drug, and I realized I was pretty good at it. During a show at MIT, the openers were eating it, and I was waiting to go on. I actually wanted to go on even though the crowd sucked. There's an old sports cliché, “winners want the ball.” That was the first time in my life I ever wanted the ball.
DS: Jewish parents often brag about their children being lawyers or doctors, how often do you hear parents bragging about their children being a comedian?
SH: Jewish parents, all the time. Because we have Seinfeld and Jackie Mason. We also have a billion others, but those are the two my parents’ friends have heard of.
DS: You wrote a book, National Lampoon Balls! An In Your Face Look at sports , this past year. Given the title, when you inscribe it to someone, do you sometimes feel sick in your stomach?
SH: Not at all - I try to have a sense of humor about all things. If I didn't think “enjoy my Balls!” was funny, I wouldn't have written the book.
DS: How did you get the idea to write that book?
SH: I've been a sports fan for my whole life. And to me, there's nothing funnier than how seriously people take sports. There's never been a sports book that valued humor over information. It's usually a bit funny, but mainly sports. This is a bit sports, but mainly funny.
DS: What’s the day in the life of a touring comedian like?
SH: It’s different for all of us. For me and my guys (Denis Donohue and Phil Mazo), I usually wake up around 9 or 10, and check my email and write til they get up at 12 or 1. They go running while I check my email (we all have different types of laziness), then we all go eat. We drive 4-5 hours to the next gig, and en route we listen to Sirius, play Guitar Hero, and check our email. We do the gig, and either party after or go back to the hotel and watch Family Guy. And then we do it again the next day.
DS: At an average show, how many people come up after the show ends and tell you that you’re a friend of theirs on sites like MySpace and Facebook?
SH: Usually 5-10. Most realize that I won't recognize them. Occasionally, someone is offended that I don't remember them. “Come on, you don't recognize me? I'm the person that emailed you once two years ago, you know, with the picture of the cat instead of my face.”
DS: Do you think that social networking sites are helpful to aspiring comedians when it comes to building a name for themselves amongst the fans?
SH: Certainly, they're democratic. I'm rising because people are telling their friends to check out my stuff. The internet is about what people think is funny, not what TV execs think is funny.
DS: With all the “friends” that you have, when do you think you will be appearing on the late night shows…if they ever get back into production again?
SH: I am in the final stages for two of them, so if they go back to production, I’d guess I’ll be on at least one of em in 2008. But it's such a crap shoot that it's hard to say.
DS: You graduated from Columbia University, right? What did you do there to further your comedic career?
SH: Yup. While there, I joined a fraternity, not because I thought i should but because it was 30 of the funniest guys I'd ever met. They influenced me more than most things to develop a sense of humor. And I had to be quick - we were vicious.
DS: You’re a Mets fan, correct?
DS: What the heck happened to them this season?
SH: Rickey freaking Henderson.
DS: After Endy Chavez stole a home run from Scott Rolen, did you think that the 2006 NLCS series was over?
SH: No, I'm not silly enough to think that its over until 3 out in the bottom of the ninth. Or after if it’s an extra inning game. I also didn’t see it live - I had a gig that night and had to get score updates on my phone. Denis left after his set to watch - the bastard.
DS: What do you tell people when they ask you for advice on starting a career in comedy?
SH: Shut up and do it. There's no “I'm thinking about it.” It doesn't hurt to try it. And the stage is not for every body. If you're a great writer but can't think on your feet, you won't be a good comic. If you can think on your feet but can't write, you won't be a good comic. Comics are a combination actor, writer, and improver, and if you aren't all three, just be what you are. Also, you will not be famous tomorrow. For every laugh you get, there’s a thousand other guys getting bigger laughs than you. Check your ego at the door, prepare for 5-10 years of struggle, and get up on stage already.
DS: Why do you think Jews are so successful in comedy?
SH: Humor is honored in the Jewish tradition, all the way back to the Rabbi Baal Shem Tov. Rabbis usually insert jokes into sermons - certainly way more often than priests.
DS: Jon Stewart or Bill O’Reilly?
SH: Definitely Jon Stewart. Unless the question is “Which one would you like to get skull fucked by fire ants.” Then definitely Bill O'Reilly."
DS: Jack Benny or Groucho Marx?
SH: Groucho. Jack Benny was funny for his time, but Groucho's stuff endures.
DS: Thanks for joining the Kentucky Democrat. Have a happy Chanukah. Is there anything you would like to plug before leaving?
I have a new CD coming out in the next few weeks, recorded live in Louisville. We just mastered it and we're sending it off today. Stay tuned. And Happy Hanukkah back atcha.