Steve HofstetterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s latest offering, The Dark Side of the Room, pulls triple duty: of course, first it’s a comedy album — and a consistently funny one, at that. And since so many of Hofstetter’s punch lines arrive from roads paved with ultratimely, ultraspecific pop culture nods (e.g. Bob from the Enzyte ads, Kevin Federline, American Girl dolls), the album acts as an audio time capsule.
Finally, the nearly 50-minute set recorded at the Comedy Caravan in Louisville, Ky., acts as a travelogue of sorts, with Hofstetter humorously recounting his experiences in the small pockets of America that most comics wouldn’t touch, fearful of those locales’ inherently drab nature. But Hofstetter has the chops to make it otherwise.
The way Tom Rhodes expertly carved out Europe-inspired jokes on his 2006 album Live in Paris, Hofstetter, a New York City native, does the same domestically on Dark Side.
He allows us to tag along with him to Indiana (which, up until recently, ignored the rest of the country’s rules on daylight- saving time), Pittsburgh (where there are stop signs on interstates), Dahlonega, Ga. (where he was introduced to Christian country music), Phoenix (where he performed at a strip club for Penthouse), Las Vegas (where a stripper recognized him from MySpace), Tulsa (where he attended a biker rally for God) and Northfield, Vt., which is such a small town that MapQuest’s directions to Hofstetter were simply, “Take a right out of my driveway and go fuck myself.”
There was also the gig he did for High Times: “I didn’t want to do the show at first because when I was a kid, all I learned about pot was that it was a gateway drug. And if I started telling pot jokes, I could end up telling heroin jokes. I’ll start doing jokes about cocaine and end up in an alley sucking dick for punch lines.”
Throughout the album, Hofstetter — also known for his online columns for Sports Illustrated, and his work with CollegeHumor.com and National Lampoon — masterfully maintains a powerful stage presence wherein he’s adopted a sort of bob-and-weave approach; he’ll ask the crowd a leading question, but he doesn’t give them excess rope. He’s always in control.
The one downside to Dark Side, is Hofstetter’s inclusion of airline humor. And although his treatment of post-9/11 FAA regulations proves generally more original, and wee funnier than most other comics’, we’d imagine that no less than 75 percent of working comedians still do airplane jokes, and it seems the time to put an indefinite moratorium on airline humor — unless your name is George Carlin or Brian Regan.
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