Steve Hofstetter is one of the best known road comics in America. He’s been viewed 14 million times on You Tube, and he’s appeared on Craig Ferguson and all over cable networks. He has been performing here at Comedy Caravan for over a decade and even recorded three albums here: 2008’s Dark Side of the Room, 2009’s Steve Hofstetter’s Day Off, and 2011’s Pick Your Battles. Earlier this year, Hofstetter purchased the Comedy Caravan (adding it to the stable of three other clubs Hofstetter already owned), and has revamped the space, turning it into Laughing Derby, a hip rejuvenated club run by comics and for comics. He will be performing at Laughing Derby this weekend, for the first time since purchasing the club; no doubt it will be a unique weekend for performer and audiences alike. He took time to talk to us before arriving in town.
Louisville.com: How are you doing?
Steve Hofstetter: Pretty good. It’s been a crazy week.
Louisville.com: Getting ready to come back east?
Steve Hofstetter: Yeah, I’m excited about it though. It’s the first time I’ve headlined there since it was my club, which will be very, very different. Just the idea of I can do whatever I want, is kinda nice.
Louisville.com: You can go on-stage and tell the owner exactly what you think of him.
Steve Hofstetter: I can, and since I’m a little self-hating, it will be very vicious.
Louisville.com: Your background is in writing before comedy…
Steve Hofstetter: Yeah, that was certainly the intent. But when I was 13, I started doing improv to impress a girl, and that did not work…at all. Then I wanted to be a sports writer and I started down that road, but couldn’t find a job, so I started doing stand-up, and here we are.
Louisville.com: I feel like the “trying to impress a girl” story is the genesis of most comics.
Steve Hofstetter: There is a lot of that. Really, it’s just about getting attention for the most part; no matter what form of attention or who from. I always joke around when I meet another comic and say, “What are you in for?”
Louisville.com: Happy comics don’t make good comedy?
Steve Hofstetter: Well, there can be happy comics, and there can be well adjusted comics. But all of them have some kind of a demon. Humor is not a natural thing, it’s a defense mechanism, the humor is a way to cope. So if you never needed to cope with something, then you’ll never be funny.
Louisville.com: Comedy is hard because it’s less drawing out an emotion and more inciting a reflex.
Steve Hofstetter: Well, it depends on what your skill set is. I had a guy come up to me after a show and say, “Man, I could never do what you do, it’s too difficult.” And I said, “Well, what do you do?” Brain surgeon; like, actual operating on brains. I was like: well, I guess it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to be a comedian. I’ve had soldiers tell me they’d be terrified to go on-stage. You shoot at people that have guns, and they shoot back. You stand at a place that they know where you are and they shoot at you. It’s all in your head, and I find it a lot easier to do comedy, than not to do comedy.
Louisville.com: Do you remember your first time coming through Louisville?
Steve Hofstetter: The first time I worked for the [Comedy] Caravan was November 18th, 2003. I was on my way, driving to Dallas. I had a couple of gigs in a row where I was going to Dallas, then New Mexico, and then to L.A. for a month, to see if I liked it out there. Louisville was on the way, so I set up a guest set.
Louisville.com: How did you go from being a comic to a club owner?
Steve Hofstetter: It started because I would always find myself in the office of the owner or manager by the end of the week, telling them everything they were doing wrong. Part of it was because I was good at it, and the other part, was I’m a jerk who can’t leave well enough alone. Eventually one of the clubs asked me to consult with them, so I started consulting with clubs. Eventually that led me into wanting to run my own because I was tired of doing it for other people.
Louisville.com: Tired of making other people money?
Steve Hofstetter: Well yeah. I was also tired of watching people ignore my advice.
Louisville.com: Is there a wall between you and comics now, where you were their comedian buddy, but now you’re their boss when they’re in your clubs?
Steve Hofstetter: It’s a little bit weird. I’m not going to pretend it’s not weird. It’s also great, because when you see someone you like you also have more means to help them out. It’s kind of a double edged sword.
Steve Hofstetter will be at Laughing Derby all weekend, tickets range from $12-$15 – and times vary.