The first thing you should know about stand-up comedian Steve Hofstetter is that he was born on September 11, and that, as a self-proclaimed gallows humorist, that tragic date is truly funny. In his mind, the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941 has more distance, but still, he making you laugh at Nine Eleven jokes is totally appropriate. Check out his newest stand-up special, “The Recipe,” at his Patreon page to hear one or two death knell jokes. Or check out his near-Christmas live stand-up comedy dates in Pittsburgh, Dayton, Cleveland, Chicago and Ann Arbor (which is funny considering his Detroit jokes about nationalism and fucking).
Before getting to “The Recipe” – a quiet, live stand-up special filmed in Queens, New York in his old high school – however, you must get to this self-titled secret optimist’s teardowns of GOP hecklers, his trolling of Republican politicos and his posting of hilarious videos of interactions with Conservative audience members across YouTube.
And Christian missionaries. And bros wearing sunglasses at night. And Lauren Boebert. And Brian Kilmeade. And Larry the Cable Guy.
In a dry, deadpan voice – literally, and figuratively as the author of six books, including his 2022 publication, Follow Your Dream (Unless Your Dream Is Stupid) – Hofstetter always finds a caustic way into a comic situation’s bloodstream, and never let go until he has infected the whole of the system. “I didn’t intend to be a stand-up comedian,” he once told the Glenside Local. “I intended to be a writer and I started doing stand-up to kind of pass the time while I was looking for a job and the way I say it is: “I was thrown into the ocean and found out I was a fish.”
First made famous for his smart, punk teardowns of redneck-branded stand-up comedian Larry the Cable Guy (a 2006 CD/DVD package Cure for the Cable Guy with its cover art of aa Larry the Cable Guy Doll hanging by a cable), Hofstetter has made his name and reputation for beating the mainstream/conversative Goliath.
After that came the Hofstetter habit of posting videos of his interactions with most opposing viewpoint Conservative audience members on YouTube, a phenom that garnered so many views, Fox Television gave him own stand-up comedian showcase series Laughs.
Hating himself for his Fox moment and dissing all things Fox News on his new special, The Recipe (along with reviling the fact that Fox morning host Brian Kilmeade, there’s Steve’s joke about if Fox News had real say-so over Fox TV, the Simpsons characters such as Chief Wiggims would do nothing but shoot Carl over-and-over), Hofstetter treats Fox as a diabetic would chocolate. With fear and loathing.
Then there are those hecklers or anyone willing to question his act. In the YouTube short, “GOP Heckler Owned,” he not only rips a Republican crowd member for dissing women and transgender rights from the audience, Hofstetter assumes that he is a bad tipper. All this before tearing Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert a new asshole by re-reading his mean, trolling Tweets to the Rocky Mountain radical right winger.
“(Posting these videos) deters people from doing it,” Hofstetter told the Glenside Local. “I refer to the heckler videos as the “gateway drug to my comedy” because it draws people in but what gets them to actually buy tickets and be a fan is the actual stand up and the rest of what I do. I found that the fewer hecklers these days the more popular those videos get. There was only one time, you know it’s been ten years since those videos were popular, and there’s only been one time when someone specifically came to a show to heckle…and followed through with it. I bet there have been a couple of times where people thought they were going to and once they saw the environment…a lot of people deep down are cowards and that helps. But the only time someone actually did it, I kicked them out of the show and I deleted the footage. I will not let anyone ever get infamous by interrupting someone else’s evening.”
What is interesting, then, about The Recipe is how a quieter, more ruminative and reminiscing comedian comes through in Hofstetter’s long-form stories.
Talking about his nerdy parents – people who were so dweeby, they stayed home from Woodstock because of the dangers of rain and mud – while his mom gave Steve his interest in science and computers, his dad introduced him to the smart social agendas of hip comedians such as comedic idols George Carlin and Dick Gregory, the latter of whom Hofstetter tells sweet tales of their opening dates together.
“How did the free love generation of my parents become Fox News’ most avid viewers? Because all of the cool kids died of AIDS and drugs.” This said, with irony intended, to a crowd of masked Queens natives.
His nerdy father with whom Hofstetter shared his deepest bond, told his son that “You don’t get in trouble if you’re funny enough.” What better entrée could a son have toward a career in comedy than hearing your old man’s welcoming words?
That his father passes away at the finale of The Recipe – that he is forced to cry on an airplane flight home next to misogynistic bros – is what Hofstetter calls the ultimate ghosting ever, a joke you get the drift of while viewing The Recipe in its entirety. And along with gentle jokes about slavery, Judaism, family foibles, genocide and adoption, Hofstetter relayed one phrase in his new special that speaks to his secret optimist within – the kindness that his mother told a young Steve that he should always kill with.
“May you get everything out of life you deserve.” If a person is good, the compliment is a sweet one. “And if you are offended, you are an asshole.”