July 14 2010 12:00 AM

Comic Steve Hofstetter went from sportswriter to stand-up star


Steve Hofstetter likes sports.

He said he’s always been somewhat of an athlete, but he was never “awesome.” “I wasn’t someone who would get picked first,” he said in a phone interview. “There’s a phrase that winners want the ball, and I never wanted the ball.”

Hofstetter never expected to make a living from being an athlete; he was getting by as a freelance sportswriter for various magazines and doing stand-up comedy to keep busy after he graduated college while he was looking for a job.

It was then that he stumbled into success in comedy. It wasn’t his childhood dream; he said he didn’t even decide to pursue stand-up until he had been doing it professionally for six months.

“I was doing a show in Boston, and the crowd was terrible for the first two comics, and I’m standing there waiting to go on, saying ‘I’ll get them, I’ll get them,’ and I realized, ‘Holy shit, I want the ball,’” he said. “That day was when I realized, ‘OK, I’m not a writer, I’m a comic.’ Before, I was a writer who did comedy. That day, I became a comedian who wrote.”

Hofstetter, 30, has recorded four comedy albums, made multiple TV appearances and is in the midst of a tour that will bring him to Connxtions comedy club Thursday through Saturday. He said he enjoys coming to college towns, particularly because the audiences tend to skew young.

“Most people over 60 consider me a whippersnapper,” he said.

Success in comedy has allowed Hofstetter to write for publications like Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Maxim and ESPN magazine. Hofstetter said he has not found a need to choose between writing or comedy; it’s less about balance than it is a passion for both.

“Print and stand-up are two different types of writing,” he said. “Stand-up, you have to get the laugh instantly, people don’t have time to think about what you said. On a page, you can get a delayed laugh. When I have things that would make great columns but terrible stand-up, then I’ll write it as a column, and vice versa.”

Hofstetter is promoting an upcoming TV special, as well as his tour, by giving away 1 million free downloads of his 2008 album, “The Dark Side of the Room.” The album was originally marketed as the first pay-what-you-want comedy album, taking a cue from Radiohead, which released “In Rainbows” in a similar manner. This gives audiences the option of downloading the album for free, and they can choose to pay for it if they wish.

“People are going to steal it anyway,” Hofstetter said. “Even during the pay-what-you-want (period), it was still appearing on torrent websites. People just want to feel like they’re stealing. I decided to do the million free downloads, because even if half a million were going to buy it anyway, that’s another half million that will find out what my comedy is like.”

Besides giving away the
album online, Hofstetter has a strong Internet presence via Facebook,
Twitter and a blog. He said he’s been lucky to have Facebook since the
very beginning, when it was only available to nine universities.

“I had a ton of Facebook friends before Dane Cook was even on it,” he said, referring to a fellow stand-up comedian.

says it’s important for comics to be connected to the rest of the
world, and he tries to remain tied to his fans through social

amazing thing about the social networking is it allows fans access that
they’ve never had before,” he said. “The fact you can write to someone
and they might actually write back, (that) they’ll be reading it. I’ve
tried to remain very accessible because I think that’s important. If
someone takes the time to write something nice to you, the least you
can do is write ‘thank you.’”

Hofstetter still likes sports, although
he doesn’t get as much of a chance to be an athlete anymore. He’s
picked up golf, which he said he enjoys, and which suits the solitary
lifestyle of a touring comic.

he’ll throw a sports-related joke into his comedy, but he said he’s
generally had to leave the sports to his writing career, because “you
really have to do jokes everyone understands.”

He’s hopeful for his new projects, and he said he has “less and less fear” as he progresses.

takes every comic a while to find their voice,” he said. “Every
comedian, every album, you should mature and find your voice more, or
you should get out of the business. If you’re not getting better as a comic, why are you still doing it? You should always be getting better.”

Steve Hofstetter

8 p.m. Thursday and 8:30 and 10 p.m.

Friday and Saturday Connxtions 2900 N. East Street, Lansing $8 Thursday; $12 Friday; $15 Saturday (517) 482-1468 www.stevehofstetter.com