He’s your best friend on facebook.com and welcomes anyone to poke him and send him messages or hate mail. He’s Steve Hofstetter, one of three comedians featured at the College Union Board’s (CUB) Welcome Back Comedy Show on Sept. 1.
Hofstetter joined Patrice O’Neal and Jay Black in Kendall Hall to perform in front of a full audience.
“For the Welcome Week show, we generally try to bring in a diverse group of comedians so that there’s something for everyone,” Lindsay Knight, junior English major and event coordinator for CUB, said. “Jay, Steve and Patrice all have very different styles, so we hope that everyone who attended the show really enjoyed at least one of them.”
The headliner for the show was Patrice O’Neal, who has appeared on “The Late Show with Conan O’Brien” and “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.” O’Neal spent most of his performance heckling the crowd and several celebrities.
He received thunderous applause for such jokes as one about the runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks, and her big eyes, which O’Neal demonstrated by opening his eyes wide and telling the audience that people do not need to show their entire eyeballs all the time.
O’Neal’s set, however, was riddled with obscene references and sexual innuendo as he also spent time heckling members of the audience based on race, religion and simply for leaving the show early.
“I was disgusted by O’Neal and disappointed by anyone in the crowd that laughed at his cruel and racist jokes,” Laura Giannella, senior English education major, said. “If the only way you can keep an audience is to make fun of the people walking out so that everyone else is afraid to do the same, you should really reconsider being a comedian. That guy should take notes from the two comedians that went before him, because they knew how to laugh at others, without offending and belittling them.”
Despite all this, at the end of his hour-long set, O’Neal received a standing ovation from about half the audience. Unfortunately, he was unavailable for an interview.
Hofstetter, a Columbia University graduate and a comedian dubbed “The Thinking Man’s Comic,” amused the audience with his comedy that he describes as being a bit more harsh and more than just entertainment than when he began doing stand-up.
“I never want someone to come to my show looking for cheap jokes,” Hofstetter said. “When I go onstage, I need to entertain first, educate second, but it’s not just entertainment.”
Hofstetter riddled his set with jokes about Diddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign in the 2004 election, explaining that “We’d rather die,” and even asked the audience why certain abbreviations must be followed by a word accounted for in the abbreviation. One example included “PIN number,” followed by his question to the audience of whether they have heard anyone say “ATM machine.”
“How do you live in this world and not notice the irony that surrounds us everyday?” Hofstetter asked. “If you tell a joke based on something you just happened to observe, we all saw it too. We notice the irony, we notice the gaps, we thrive on that stuff. So the challenge is not writing material, the challenge is writing original material that no one else is doing.”
He began his career in comedy by writing a column for collegehumor.com and started doing stand-up while trying to promote his first book, “Student Body Shots,” which he describes as being an “honest look at college.”
“I had no idea I was a comic, I always thought I was a writer,” Hofstetter said. “I absolutely love comedy. I just thought it was something I kind of enjoyed watching.”
Hofstetter also has a show called “Four Quotas,” which he has hosted on Sirius Satellite Radio for a little over a year.
“Because it’s uncensored, it gives us a real forum to just frankly look at race and politics and everything,” he said of the panel show that features a white comic, a black comic, a female and a wild card. “It’s either the talkiest funny show ever or the funniest talk show ever because we go back and forth. It’s like laughter will always be king on it because we’re on the comedy channel, but we try to talk about things we’re passionate about and have a good time too.”
Hofstetter is also well known as a friend to about 180,000 people on Facebook. Professing that it came about partly out of boredom, he said he decided it might be a good way to put his name out there.
“I think (Facebook) really is changing the way college students are interacting with each other in a positive manner, but I still think it’s funny how online-obsessed we are, so I figured, give it a shot, see what happens,” he said.
The first comedian to perform for the night was Jay Black, who said he was thrilled to be performing at the College, his alma mater, for the first time.
“I said that real early on, that it would be great to come back to Kendall Hall and I never really thought it would happen,” Black said. “I don’t get nervous for performances, but this whole day, I’ve (had) nervous energy and my stomach’s been hurting.”
Black said he actually got his start doing comedy bits for WTSR. His first mike show afterwards went very well, he said.
Although he said his following shows did not go as well, “I got that first taste and I wanted to keep going back,” he said.
While attending the College, he got his teaching certificate and said he still loves standing up in front of a class. Although his comedy has really started to take off, he said he still has his teaching and could always go back to it in the future.
During his set, Black got applause for his bits about the Irish being the only culture to actually celebrate their negative stereotypes and the laziness of Americans. As he told those in attendance, Dunkin’ Donuts now has an express pack with its top 12 doughnuts because we are simply too lazy to point to the ones we want.
“All the acts were good, (but) Jay was especially funny,” Dave Adams, sophomore chemistry major, said.
Knight was in agreement about Black’s performance. “Jay Black especially got a lot of laughs, which is terrific since he’s an alumnus and was really excited to come back here and perform,” she said.
According to Black, the difference between a comedian and someone who is funny with friends is that a comedian will write things down.
“I just get it from my life and I write it down and I kind of present it and I hope they laugh at it,” he said.
Black closed his set by thanking the audience for attending the show and explaining that he was thrilled to be able to come back to the College to perform.
“The first day I was here … my R.A. from Norsworthy, took me to this show and to be here 11 years later and to be back on the same stage and hearing the kids applaud and laugh, I’ve never had a better show and I really don’t think I ever will have a better one,” he said.
Overall, the students in attendance seemed to enjoy all three of the performers.
“I think the audience was terrific and created a great atmosphere for all the comedians,” Knight said. “I know some people in the audience took offense to certain comments and jokes, but that’s what happens with comedy – it’s hard to be politically correct and still uphold a certain comedic style.”
“It was … insanely funny,” Liz Lagerstrom, sophomore music education major, said. “It took away all the stress of the semester.”