Good comedians adapt their bit to their surroundings. For comedian Steve Hofstetter, this included country singer Conway Twitty's "pajamas."
The sparkly pink and blue fringed silk outfit was mounted on the wall of Nashville's Hard Rock Cafe, where Hofstetter, the original columnist for collegehumor.com, performed what he calls his "comedy without apology" Saturday night. The ridiculous apparel proved appropriate fodder for Hofstetter's set, including a story from an earlier show where an audience member shouted defensively, "Those aren't pajamas – that's what he actually wore!"
Hofstetter's slightly condescending smirk was the unspoken comeback.
And Hofstetter, an alumnus of Columbia University, is a master of the unspoken as well as the delivered, giving the audience a show grounded in subtlety, intellect and a little moralistic humor.
"I do know that too many of us are too sure in our beliefs. ... None of us know that God exists; we've never met him," Hofstetter said. "A homeless man said to me, 'God bless you,' trying to be polite. But he didn't know my beliefs, and I didn't know his, so I said, 'May you reap all the rewards of science.'
"We both left confused."
He was quick to present the other side of the coin.
"Atheists don't get cocky, you don't know there's no God," he said. "The only way you'd know that for sure is if you were an all-knowing being ... (expletive). That's a catch-22 isn't it?"
Talking about religion and gay marriage might have been a risky move for a Tennessee audience, but Hofstetter handled these controversial topics with ease and accessibility in ways that contrasted greatly with opener A.J. Finney, whose comments appeared too crude for the Cafe's crowd.
Hofstetter pulled much material from his status as a redhead, making light of the soulless plight of gingers everywhere.
"JFK had red hair, and they shot him. Well, he had red hair at the end no matter how he started at the beginning anyway," he said, the audience responding with "Awws." "Really? Too soon? We're still reeling from that as a country?
"We're too young to remember it. You're like, 'Oh, that was so sad. ... My dad told me about it.'"
Throughout the night, Hofstetter brought his intelligently comedic perspective on pop culture and politics to the appreciative patrons. During his bit on "Toddlers & Tiaras," the audience was particularly responsive when he described the children as "totstitutes" and "prostitots."
"How else would you describe it?" Hofstetter asked in reaction to the crowds calls. "Oh, I know – child abuse."
With his entertaining and highly opinionated brand of comedy, Hofstetter led the audience right where he wanted them: laughing, relaxed and maybe thinking about their own views on religion, politics and pageantry.
1) "This is holy weather, meaning you walk outside and say 'Oh my God' and then you die and meet him. Unless you're an atheist, then you're just cold."
2) "I've been teased a lot, because I have red hair... and everyone else is an (expletive)."
3) "You guys have little pockets along the interstate. You guys have Memphis and Nashville and Knoxville and oops."
4) "These aren't freckles. These are emotional scars."
5) "If you ever see a fat, blond, Chinese guy – make a wish. They're endangered."
6) "It was negative 2 (degrees) in St. Louis. People are smoking outside. How strange is that the smoking is not the biggest health risk in the situation? They'd be better off doing cocaine inside."