Hofstetter elicits leftward laughter at Hillel-sponsored ‘Comedy JAM’

Hofstetter at Hillel Comedy JAM. (Tom O'Dell/Photo Assistant)

Upon bursting into the music building, shaking off jackets drenched by Monday’s unapologetic downpour, students were handed two small slips of paper before catching their bearings to enter the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall.

The first was a raffle ticket, as Hillel planned on following the night’s events with a small raffle. The second was a business card. Simple but colorful, the card bore a name, a tagline, a website, and a quote. “Steve Hofstetter,” it read. “Comedy Without Apology. Stevehofstetter.com.”

And, underneath, the quote: “That comedian last night was really funny. I’m glad I took this card home.” The source? “You, Tomorrow.”

This brand of deadpan humor, delivered first by a piece of 2.5-by-3.5 inch laminated paper and then by a tall, red-haired Jewish comedian, characterized Hillel’s “Comedy JAM” event, held March 22 to close a series of Hillel-sponsored Jewish Awareness Month activities. The evening welcomed two comedians, approximately 25 audience members and peals of laughter from attendees and comedians alike.

“I tell people that I’m Jewish, and they don’t believe me. Which is weird, because why would I make that up?” Hofstetter cracked. “I always tell people I’m Jewish and they’re all, ‘No, man, you’re Irish,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I’m not,’ and they’re like, ‘So you’re Jewish and also Irish?’ Now, tell me, what’s the likelihood of that happening? I’m the one. Lucky McJew. Arr, they’re after me lucky star!”

Throughout the night, Hofstetter delivered, as billed, “comedy without apology” – drawing material from areas some might consider offensive in order to break down the stigmas attached.

He began his set with a story about meeting two outspoken pro-life activists in a line at Office Depot. As the line built and checking out became slow, the two men began shouting to the cashier that they were late for a pro-life rally.

“After a while, I just told them – if you guys supported abortion, the line could’ve been shorter,” Hofstetter said.

The audience dissolved into laughter.

Continued Hofstetter, “I’m glad you guys are with me on that one. I told that joke in Hayes, Kansas. I would have been better off performing an actual abortion onstage.”

Opening for Hofstetter, who has appeared on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and writes for CollegeHumor.com, was Vegas Lancaster, 2009 alum of the College. Lancaster delivered a high-energy round of jokes that kept the crowd engaged.

“I turned to a conservative news station the other day to try to understand health care. All I know is they’re really angry about something, but they’re not sure what,” said Lancaster, who studied philosophy while at the College. “So I turned to a liberal news station. All I know is they’re cautiously optimistic about something, but they’re not sure what. So I turned to an ‘objective’ station and they were speaking in British accents, so after a while I shut it off.”

Organizers of the event were pleased with its outcome.

“I loved it,” said Stefanie Haar, senior psychology and health and exercise science double major. Haar is also the vice president of Israeli awareness and social action for Hillel. “I thought he was really funny,” she said.

“We wanted to do a fun event for the campus and our members,” said Evan Greenberger, junior philosophy major and Jewish Awareness Month committee chair.

“We thought a comedian would be a good addition to the events we’d been doing over the month,” added Haar. She had closed the show by thanking all members of Hillel for an awesome Jewish Awareness Month.

And Hofstetter had thanked the crowd as well. Bidding them back into the rainy night, but with a lot of laughs tucked away to show for their attendance, Hofstetter gave the audience a warm goodbye: “Thank you for supporting live comedy. Thank you for supporting the Jews – cause we’re clearly not doing well enough as a people already – and most importantly, thank you all for listening. Good night!”