Now that he’s a famous comedian, Steve Hofstetter gets to cross certain things off his bucket list. Sometimes over and over again.
Like throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game. The host of “Laughs,” the syndicated Fox stand-up series, did that for the first time last season. A rabid baseball fan, he has since taken the mound to throw out that ceremonial first pitch for the Astros, the Marlins and, soon, the Reds, Mariners and Brewers.
“I’m almost getting jaded,” says the New York-born comedian, who now lives in L.A.
Almost, but not quite. Success still elicits plenty of pinch-me moments for him, though Hofstetter readily concedes nothing tops the thrill of entertaining a live audience. He’ll do that in San Francisco with an April 30 concert at Cobb’s Comedy Club.
Hofstetter, 35, will no doubt run through some of his more popular routines, including how dogs are smarter than kids (when he leaves his dogs home alone, he doesn’t need to cover electrical outlets), but what he won’t do, and what he never does, is tell straight-up “Jewish jokes.” Even when he plays JCCs and synagogues — which he does often — Hofstetter prefers comedy “from a Jewish perspective.”
As he observes, “You’ve heard the same Passover jokes a million times. It’s not creative or new, and it doesn’t add anything. It’s not about the rules and laws; it’s about the culture.”
Hofstetter says his background gives him “a lot of Jewish street cred.” He grew up in Queens in an observant Conservative family. He was a United Synagogue Youth divisional president and later attended Jewish Theological Seminary as an undergrad, though he never intended on becoming a rabbi.
But he might have considered a career in baseball (in his first Little League at-bats, he went five-for-five). Unfortunately, he was “hit in the face by a pitch” during a Little League game. “That’s something you don’t really recover from.”
Meanwhile, he also worshipped the show “Seinfeld” as a model for Jewish humor. “You know how they called it a show about nothing?” he asks. “It’s actually a show about everything, and it’s still my favorite show of all time.”
He retained his love of baseball and later found comedy more of a calling than the rabbinate. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
“It’s a tradition we’ve had for a long time,” he says. “Purim was hilarious. My rabbi would come in and read the Megillah while wearing seven pairs of pants. My parents love what I do and did from the beginning. Because when you’re Jewish it’s so easy: You say my son is a comedian and people say, “Like Jackie Mason?”
Hofstetter put in the requisite number of years sleeping in his car as he crossed the country on the comedy circuit. Eventually, he broke through. Then last year Fox bought his idea for “Laughs,” a show that features video clips of up-and-coming comics in performance.
“It’s been so wonderful to see someone I think is funny and say to them, ‘Hey you want to be on TV?’ It’s so cool to be able to do that. After ‘Laughs,’ many comics have gotten agents. One just got his own spin-off series. Another got Letterman.”
Off stage, he comes off as a humble guy. Hofstetter met his wife on JDate and the two are involved in various charities. One project he especially enjoys is feeding the needy on Thanksgiving and Christmas through a program sponsored by the Laugh Factory, a prominent Los Angeles comedy club.
It not only feels good to give back, but last year the experience proved to him that he and “Laughs” are making an impact.
“I’m standing there dishing out potatoes next to Dane Cook, Tom Arnold, Paul Rodriquez and Richard Lewis, a who’s who of amazing comics,” he recalls. “This guy walks right by them, makes a beeline for the potatoes and says to me, ‘Hey, I watch your show. Thanks!’ ”
Steve Hofstetter performs Thursday, April 30 at Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., S.F. $20. www.cobbscomedyclub.com