Pittsburgh Newcomer Launches Weekly Standup-Comedy Series
Steve Hofstetter has big comedy plans for Pittsburgh, and they involve a spacious old Methodist church in Stanton Heights. But first they’ll be running through a nightclub in Lawrenceville.
Thursday, the nationally touring comic launches “Steve Hofstetter and Friends,” a weekly standup series at the Thunderbird Café. Hofstetter will host touring headliners, visiting comics, and local talent. The initial run is slated for four weeks, but the series will continue if it goes well, he said.
“Hofstetter and Friends” is at the Thunderbird because the home of the Steel City Arts Foundation, Hofstetter’s nonprofit comedy performance and production center, is still under construction and needs to apply for a zoning change, he said. The former church complex on Stanton Avenue — which will go by the cheeky name “Steel City AF” — includes performance space, a recording studio, and a three-bedroom house that provides living and working space for resident comedians (three at any given time, each for six months or more).
Hofstetter, formerly based in Los Angeles, bought the complex in January and moved to Pittsburgh in February. He said he’d been dreaming for years of acquiring a large building for such a project, and had always enjoyed visiting Pittsburgh, with its proximity to multiple other comedy markets.
One of his goals is to nurture burgeoning comedy talent. He views the showcase at the Thunderbird as a first step.
“Part of it is so the local comics can learn from people in other scenes, but also so that people in other scenes can see how cool Pittsburgh is,” Hofstetter said. He spoke by phone from Eugene, Ore., where he had two shows that night before gigs in Portland, Seattle, and Spokane, Wash.
Hofstetter himself plays mostly theaters these days; his next headlining show in Pittsburgh is at Oakmont’s Oaks Theater. His YouTube channel has 676,000 subscribers.
Hofstetter said the pandemic shutdown was as tough on the comedy business as it was on music. Most cities lost at least one comedy venue, he said. Pittsburgh is down two, in the Rex Theater and Hambone’s.
“Pittsburgh lost a lot of standup in the past year, and so we’re hoping to put that back,” he said. “We’re hoping to grow the scene to what it was and better.”
The inaugural Hofstetter and Friends will be headlined by Mary Santora, a Cleveland-based comic and radio host. Guests include JC Coccoli, a Pittsburgh native who recently relocated here, and Kansas City, Mo.-based Joe Harman, who is among the first group of resident comics at Steel City AF.
Harman is autistic and teaches people on the spectrum, as well as incorporating autism-themed material into his own sets, said Hofstetter.
“It’s wonderful to be able to listen to someone who deals with this on a daily basis and can kind of explain it really in a funny way,” said Hofstetter.
Other headliners for the series include Brett Druck (July 29), Abby Roberge (Aug. 5), and Bill Squire (Aug. 12).