Steve Hofstetter, in case you don’t know, is a comedian from New York. He’s been a professional comic since graduating college eight years ago. His comedy is both funny and thought provoking, which is a fine line to walk. He does an excellent job of it. If you haven’t heard of Steve, then you should take this opportunity to download his album for free – yes, I said for free.

I had the opportunity to interview Steve about his giving away his album, “The Dark Side of the Room”. Instead of a self-promoting, fast interview that I was expecting, the experience turned out to be more of a conversation between two people who have just met (one of which is recording it). Truth be told, this has made for a long transcript. I don’t want to sell Steve short by picking and choosing what I post here and what I don’t, because he struck me as a funny comedian when I listened to his album, he truly struck me as a very intelligent young man during this interview.

However; this is a blog and my interview with him ran for forty minutes. So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to post my interview with him in two separate posts. One today and one tomorrow. I’m just splitting the interview in half.

Without further delay, here is Part I of my interview with Steve Hofstetter.

I called Steve and caught him at home in New York. He didn’t have an appearance Saturday night, so he was free. He does have an appearance scheduled for the Bob & Tom Show on 4/5/2010.

After the initial hi, I want to interview you, I jumped right into the really tough question: Is this a new album or an old album? (I’m sure I’m in line for the Pulitzer.)

Steve: No, this is my most recent one with material. I released one since then but that one was 100% ad lib. This is the one with the material from my act.

Me: What made you decide to release this one and let everyone download it for free?

Steve: You know it started as a pay as you want album. And, it was a huge success. A lot of people still paid the $9.99 they used to on iTunes. Some people paid more and some people paid less. But, I am preparing for a new album. I figured you know what, I’m going to let a million people have this one. Because if they like this one, they’ll probably get the next one.

– This is where I gushed embarrassingly and admitted that I would be buying the next album.

Me: I really enjoyed listening to it and so, I’ve got to ask, Did you really make your mom buy the Penthouse?

Steve: Well, I didn’t force her to, but I didn’t send her a copy. She told me that she went to three or four different newsstands. And, I was like that’s even better, because that means she had to ask for it that many times. That means she had to be like, “Can I have a Penthouse?”. Because even if the guy gives her a weird look, what is she going to say? “My son’s in it.” That just makes it worse.

Me: I don’t think my mom would do that. She’d be like have the publisher send me a copy or I’m not reading it.

Steve: You know what, my mom is great and super supportive of my career. As private as she is that her love for me trumps that so she’ll go out and buy a copy of Penthouse because her son is in it.

Me: That’s really nice. So, were you a comedian as a kid? Were you the class clown?

Steve: Not even close. I was a little bit of a troublemaker when I wouldn’t get in trouble for it. I definitely liked to stir the pot to prevent myself from being bored. I wasn’t entertaining at a young age. I started during improv when I was 13. When I was in class, I was trying to fit in and not be beat up.

Me: Is this what you always wanted to do?

Steve: No, not even close. I wanted to be a journalist. I was on my way to doing that and I became disenchanted with it. There are bad things about every profession. But, journalism today is not what it should be or could be.

Me: So, you talking about about the days of Edward Morrow…

Steve: There’s always been some form of infotainment that’s part of journalism going back to Hearst. There’s always been polemics, but there was money in truth. It seems to be now that people don’t care about truth as long as there entertained. That’s gone away.

There was actually a phenomenal point on the Daily Show the other day… when they were talking about CNN’s ratings and how they lost 50% of their viewers in the last year and the idea that there is so much room for them right now with MSNBC to the left and FOX to the right. There’s a lot of room for a news organization to become the news organization that holds the others accountable. It’s amazing that instead of doing that they try to play the same stupid games that everyone else is playing.

Me: Because that’s what going to make money instead of what America really needs.

Steve: It’s not about just what America needs because it is a business, I understand that, they have to make money. I can’t say it’s the journalists’ fault by themselves because the consumers are clearly driving the demand for garbage. But, I really do believe that people rise to the level that they are presented. And, it’s amazing how many people who are the presenters decide to go for the easy buck instead of the right thing to do on the long term investment.
Me: Wow, this is an entirely different conversation than I thought I would be having. You’re a very intelligent young man.

Steve: I would hope you would get that from my comedy.

Me: I did get that. I thought that, I was really thinking about …

(I should note that Steve has a section on his album regarding marijuana and legalization. This next section refers to that.)

I heard the same thing you heard growing up that marijuana is a gateway drug and I was like, cool. And, the funny thing is that I’ve never really smoked pot. I mean, I’ve tried it, and I would stand in line to vote to legalize it, because this is ridiculous.

Steve: You know, I’ve never even tried it. And, it’s funny, because of that bit and the widespread attention that bit in particular has gotten – I did it on Ferguson. I’ve kind of almost became a champion for the cause, reluctantly. And, it is something should be legalized. The amount of resources that we’re wasting to keep a pot dealer in jail while a rapist goes free. The amount of money were losing in our economy. What the illegal nature of pot does for the cartels. If pot were legal, the murderous, murderous cartels would be out of business. Our economy would bounce back, practically overnight. It’s just amazing to see. We’re so used to accepting what’s all ready part of our laws. Forgetting that they change constantly. I remember fifteen years ago, you couldn’t find a casino outside of Vegas or Atlantic City. Then, ten years ago, you couldn’t find a casino outside of Vegas, Atlantic City or Indian land and now, you can’t go ten yards without seeing a casino. And, that’s a pretty quick transition when you consider how long it takes to build one of them.

Me: You’re right, I drive past a casino everyday on my way to work.

Steve: And, it used to be that we were saying, “Oh, these are wrong and they’ll hurt our children and how dare we.” And, then someone went, wait, we can make money off of this and suddenly, the view changed. Imagine what we can do if we legalized pot and have dealers pay a tax that goes to education.

Me: Well, they’d never had to hold another bake sale.

Steve: Exactly, well, I guess you could combine the brownies. It would be a much different bake sale.

Me: I read somewhere and I don’t remember where, that California has 80 million dollars in taxes off of the fact that they have legalized marijuana.

Steve: Yeah and that’s just for medicinal purposes. I think the vote is coming up (to legalize it). Federal law trumps state law. That’ll be an interesting exercise in states’ rights. It floors me that we’re able to pick and choose what we’re offended by and this is the root of my comedy. We’re offended by drugs whereas we drink while we’re offended by drugs. You can’t show a nipple on screen because that’s dirty, but at the same time on everyday prime time hospital shows, they show people just mutilated. And, that’s not even talking about what’s on the news. The fact that the news can show a dead body, but at one in the morning, you can’t say the word shit. It amazes me. That’s kind of what I try to do with my comedy. The root of the phrase Comedy without apology. That’s the name of my new tour. That to me is what we need. We need to stop apologizing and start having a conversation instead.

Me: So, what do you think about all these stars like Tiger Woods and Sandra Bullock’s husband, now. All these guys are acting like pigs and then they apologize and that’s supposed to make it all better. Do you think they owe us an apology? Do you think they should say I did this, oh, well, get over it?

And, you can read Steve’s answer in the second half of our interview tomorrow!