That Informs: An Interview with Steve Hotstetter
by William S. Gooch
In a summer of high
gas prices, political conventions, and an Olympics
overwhelmed by commercials and corporate sponsorship,
it’s good to know that there are places where
laughter and satire reigned supreme. The Comedy
Alternative at Lounge 87 was just that respite from
political sound bites and heat waves. For fourteen
weeks, comedians tickled the mind, as well as the
funny bone, with material that satirized, cajoled
and commented on life, love and the state of union.
The brainchild of Steve Hofstetter as a summer vehicle
for comics during the downtime of the bread-and-butter
college circuit, Comedy Alternative featured
about six comics per show plus one headliner. In
this interview, Steve Hotsetter talks about The
Comedy Alternative and his life as a standup
S. Gooch: How did you get come up with The Comedy
One of the owners of the bar is a fellow Columbia
University grad, and he contacted me about his new
place, Lounge 87, and wanted to know if I wanted
to do something there. I walked in and just loved
the vibe and how intimate the space was. So, I talked
to some standup comic friends and told them about
this great, intimate space and if they would be
interested in doing summer shows there. A lot of
standup comics do the college circuit, so in the
summer a lot of us are hanging around home. Anyway,
there was this unanimous go-ahead and it took off
S. Gooch: Now, you started out producing shows for
other comics, how did that come about?
There are four basic ways to start out as a standup
comic in New York City. There are open-mike nights,
where you pay five dollars to do five minutes in
front of a crowd consisting mostly of other comedians.
There is bring ems’, where you get a spot
on a show if you bring five or more friends who
pay full cover. There is barking, where you hand
out flyers for a show. And lastly producing, which
is making your own show.
When I started out, I didn’t
want to do open mikes, and I didn’t want to
be a bringer and bribe the club to let me on stage.
Barking appealed to me because it is working for
your stage time. Producing interested me even more
because you learn a lot about what a show is supposed
to be. So with producing I learned how to promote
a show, book a lineup, and network with other comics.
Also what’s good about producing is that you
are performing in your own venue and you’re
not so concerned about failing; you are free to
experiment and take risks, as opposed to when you
are performing in someone else’s venue, where
you are always wondering if you are doing a good
William S. Gooch: Why did
you decide to be a standup comedian?
I came into comedy through my writing. Comedy
Alternative is really about good comedic, standup
material. We want people who are good writers. The
show is about good quality comedy.
S. Gooch: Does your
lineup at Comedy Alternative change?
Steve Hotstetter: There
are some basic people who are involved in the show,
and we juggle them. I perform in about six shows,
and the headliners change every week.
William S. Gooch:
Do you moonlight on another
job or do you do your comedy full time?
Hotstetter: I actually perform full time
as a standup comic. I also do some writing and acting
and I host a radio show.
William S. Gooch:
In your routine you talked
becoming a homeowner in New Jersey. Has that informed
Everything in life should inform your work. Comics
sometimes ask me how I come up with material and
my response is how can you not come up with material.
Every life experience contributes to your material.
William S. Gooch: Do you
change your routine based on the audience?
I might change it based on how the audience is responding.
If the audience is going with me on my political
material, I hit them harder with the political stuff.
I come with a plan of what I intend to do, and I
stick to it.
William S. Gooch:
Now you do the comedy college
circuit, how does that circuit work?
There are conventions that college students go to,
so comics market those conventions to try to get
a chance to perform. If a student is a fan of yours
they go to the student activity department and ask
to bring in a particular comic. So you can build
a tour around that.
William S. Gooch: Are they
any subjects that are off limits?
There are no off limit material as long as the joke
is not too make fun of the victim. There are funny
things about Hurricane Katrina, as well as, abortion,
etc. Laughter is a response to pain.
William S. Gooch: What comedians
to you admire?
Steve Hotstetter: My comedy heroes are Bill
Hicks, Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Izzard, and others.
I admire comics who go on stage tell their truth
and stand behind their material.
William S. Gooch: What’s
next for Steve Hofstetter?
Steve Hotstetter: Well, I am pitching a new
television show and doing the college tours. And
I will keep producing shows for other comedians.
William S. Gooch: Thanks
for your time, Steve.
Steve Hotstetter: You are welcome; this was fun.
If you want more information about
Steve Hofstetter’s tour dates, go to stevehofstetter.com.
Steve will also be appearing in an upcoming episode
of Comics Unleashed. Comics Unleashed
is hosted by Byron Allen and can be seen on CBS.