Steve Hofstetter shows he knows with everyday-ready jokes
Comedy | Emmet Matheson | May 26, 2022
Steve Hofstetter with special guests
Interviewing comedians is tough because you want them to be funny. You want to show your readers how funny they are, which is why you and your editor think they’re worth interviewing in the first place. So you think up a bunch of questions that could have funny answers. You workshop things to say to them. But they’re onto you. They know you’re just trying to get them to work for free.
You wouldn’t spend a whole interview with a painter trying to trick them into doing a sketch. American comedian Steve Hofstetter, who performs June 9 at the Broadway Theatre, withstood Planet S’s attempts to get him to dunk on local politics, riff on Harry Houdini, and wax philosophical on the role of comedians in our world today. The sports panellist, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and author — his latest book is called Follow Your Dream (unless your dream is stupid) — spoke with Planet S in May in a series of dropped phone calls from somewhere in the desert on his way to Flagstaff, Arizona.
So you’re obviously back touring. How long have you been back at it? It seems like a lot of things are only just starting to open up. But you’ve been at it a while, haven’t you?
I know it’s different for you guys in Canada, where you actually listened to medical advice and took steps to look out for one another, but we’ve been open for business for a while. I mean, I went back to work last May. I was off work a whole year, but a lot of people, I mean, as early as summer of 2020, for whatever reason, started doing shows in places like Texas and Oklahoma. A lot of American people, as soon as the bars opened, it was back to business as usual.
So you’ve been on the road for the last year.
Yeah. As a comedian, that’s what it is. You have to get out and do shows. It’s kind of a perpetual tour. It’s not like a band who records and releases an album. You’re just always out there either crafting or honing your act.
Because I’ve got this idea. I see comedians and comics are out there travelling in a time when most people aren’t. You’ve got truckers out there, bringing the goods from one place to another and then you’ve got comics bringing a whole different kind of goods.
That’s what I was thinking. I was thinking about how not just from country to country but from region to region, people have experienced Covid-19, the pandemic, in so many different ways. Even just within Canada. Even within cities. Nobody’s having the same go of it as their neighbour.
Oh yeah, we saw that disparity. Some places have done a greater job. I think for me, between the vaccines and the variants and the booster shots, it’s less likely to kill you.
I was just watching your new YouTube video about Madison Cawthorn. You really dismantled his whole narrative. Do you keep up with Canadian politics? Are you aware of what’s going on up here?
Well, I mean, I’m aware that things aren’t quite the same. I’m aware of the Fox News bleedover and just how much our news dominates everything. I’m aware that the idiotic trucker convoy we’re dealing with has its origins in Canada, even though that was just the work of three American agitators. I’m aware that there’s a difference between places like Toronto and Vancouver and places like Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
My editor, he wanted me to say something about, let me check his exact words, he’s a fan of yours. He wanted me to say “I just want Hofstetter to know we elected a—”
A what? Is that something local?
Yeah, he wanted you to know that, kind of like Madison Cawthorn, the Premier has this history—
Premier, uh, that’s like the equivalent of our governors, right? Yeah, that’s pretty local. I wouldn’t want to weigh on anything that local without, you know. I just don’t know enough to say anything.
Yeah, no, for sure. How much do current events play into your set? Like it just seems like there’s tidal wave after tidal wave these days [note: this interview was conducted the week following the Roe vs Wade leak and the Buffalo mass shooting]. Do you have to adapt your material to keep up?
No. I need to have jokes that are going to be as funny on Saturday night as they are on Tuesday. As a comedian, I’m less interested in any specific news item and more interested in trends in what’s going on. I used to do a video series called “Stick to Comedy” which was a play on that whole “shut up and dribble” idea that basketball players shouldn’t have opinions. But now I call it “For the Smart People” and at the start I say, “If you’re an idiot, feel free to stop watching.”
Right? Otherwise, instead of actually making points, if you start to engage with these idiots, it’s just a complete waste of time. At your shows, do you engage with people at all? Do you work the room? Do you get people who want to argue with you?
I do a Q&A portion. I first got known for dealing with hecklers, these videos of me putting down hecklers went viral, and people would often ask me if that brought more hecklers to my shows.
That makes me think of Harry Houdini, the way people would challenge after his escapes.
No, I don’t think it was anything like that. But it was definitely a draw. But I didn’t find that more people were heckling. People would come because they wanted to see me own a heckler, they didn’t come because they wanted to be humiliated themselves.