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Humor: Yom Kippur Mass Apology Form

August 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Wondering how you can atone for your sins on Yom Kippur?  Two comedians have devised alternate form letters that can be sent out right after Rosh Hashanah.

By David Jelenko and Steve Hofstetter

Dear [People on My Facebook Page/Friends],

With [two days off of work/Rosh Hashanah] over, it’s time to look forward to Yom Kippur. And as always, that means [apologizing for stuff that isn’t my fault/penance], because [God says I have to/it’s always good to take stock of where things stand with our loved ones]. So I am writing to set things right with [you jerks who crowd my space/my family and friends]. Since I [can’t be bothered to do this in person/couldn’t reach out to all of you in time], the mass communication method seems like the [best cop-out/most practical way to go].

To that end, please fill out the following form and send it back to me [never/before Kol Nidre], so I [won’t have to deal with this again/can apologize properly].

1) Name: ________________

2) How I know you: ___________

3) How long I’ve known you: _______________

4) What I allegedly did wrong:
A) _______________
B) ________________
C) ________________
D-Z)_______________________________

5) Are you sure [THING I DID] was really my fault? [YES/NO]
5a) Are you lying? [YES/NO]

6) Was [THING I DID] so bad that if Jews believed in hell, I would go there? [YES/NO] (If “YES,” please describe)

7) Would money/food/other gifts help paper over [THING I DID]? [YES/NO]

8) Are you going to let [THING I DID] go if I apologize? [YES/NO]
Note: If answer to #8 is “NO,” skip question #10.
If applicable: 8a) Will an apology get you to drop any pending lawsuits related to [THING I DID]? [YES/NO]

9) Is [THING I DID] forgivable? [YES/NO]

10) How I can make [THING I DID] up to you: __________________________

11) Will you still forgive [THING I DID] when invariably I don’t perform #10? [YES/NO]

And remember that for whatever I’ve done wrong over the last year, I am truly [without fault/sorry].

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Finding Jews in Rural America

August 2, 2010 Leave a comment

By Steve Hofstetter

Steve Hofstetter

NEW YORK–The New York metro area has 2 million Jews, more than everywhere but Tel Aviv. But it’s a big drop after that. LA has 650,000. Philly, DC, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco each have about a quarter million. A few more American cities have 50,000-100,000. But when you get down to the top 40 American cities, we’re talking less than 10,000 in a metro area.

We have always gravitated towards large metro areas. Perhaps it’s because we’re a communal people. Perhaps it’s for the availability of good Chinese food. Whatever the reason, we’re city dwellers. Which means there’s an awful lot of America without any Jews.

I can just imagine someone on JDate in Pierre, South Dakota, messaging the same two people over and over again. There are only 295 Jews in the whole state – I’m guessing their answer to JDate’s “Will you relocate?” question is a resounding yes.

As a standup comic, I am constantly touring – so I get a chance to see parts of the country most people only dream about. Assuming their dreams are incredibly boring. I recently played a comedy club in Mason City, Illinois. I don’t know how they have a comedy club – they don’t even have a McDonald’s. I also don’t know how they get to be called a city. Mason Rest Stop, maybe. Incidentally, Mason City’s Jewish population is me, whenever I perform there.

Something that’s always been tough for me is being Jewish on the road. I learned very quickly to ask if everything I order is made it with bacon. Salad, steak, even pizza has come with bacon without the menu saying so. In certain parts of the country, they use bacon like Jews use salt. I’m actually shocked that powdered bacon isn’t available in a jar at the table. Most days I have to pretend I’m allergic to pork for any waitress to take me seriously. You try explaining kosher in Wichita.

I try to use the stage to spread love for the Jews, both with positive Jewish humor, and by simply being a Jewish guy the crowd likes. I am often the first Jew a lot of people meet, which is a ridiculous responsibility. To counteract prevalent stereotypes, I have to make sure to tip well, avoid klezmer music, and never eat the blood of Christian babies. Or bacon.

There was one time when I purposefully didn’t talk about being Jewish on stage. Before a show at a small bar in Muskogee, Oklahoma, my friends and I were confronted by what we thought were just local yokels. As they talked our annoyed ears off more and more, yokel turned into racist, and racist turned into two card-carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan. That’s right – they had ID cards. I believe they kept them right next to their Bed Bath and Beyond rewards cards. All those sheets can get expensive.

An aside – while doing research for this column, I checked out the KKK’s website – it looks like it was made by an 8th grader in 1997. Apparently, they hate black people, Jews, and HTML.

No one in the bar knew who I was, so my friends and I swapped positions on the show. I went on first and did ten ad-libbed minutes about growing up a patriotic, Christian American. I am proud to be Jewish, sure – but I am also proud of the Jewish people’s inherent ability to survive. That night, it was my turn.

I happily returned to Manhattan in one piece. I’m not saying we’re immune to anti-Semitism in New York; At some point Mel Gibson will star in an Oliver Stone movie here. But I do recognize that I am spoiled by just how easy it is for New Yorkers to find everything from a synagogue to a Kosher Deli to a Jewish wife.

I am continually impressed by the resolve of Jews in smaller cities, where it’s not as easy to be Jewish. So for those of you who don’t have the luxury of an apartment complex littered with mezuzahs, stay strong. And make sure to check if they put bacon on your ice cream.

*

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central. To find out how to book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.

How to Watch TV and Stay in Love

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

By Steve Hofstetter

Steve Hofstetter

NEW YORK–They prepare you to share your home. They prepare you to share your family. They do not prepare you to share your television.

It might not seem crucial to read the TV shows that someone lists on their profile. But be it a prospective spouse on JDate, a friend on Facebook or an axe murderer on Craiglist, your TV compatibility is more important than you think.

For the vast majority of us, TV plays an important part of our lives. Some are entertained by reality TV and sitcoms, others of us are riveted by dramas and serialized stories, still others are completely misinformed by the alleged news. But whatever we watch, the point is that we watch, and it’s ingrained into the fabric of who we are.

If you don’t yet agree with me on how important TV is, walk into an electronics store and go to the video camera section. Odds are you will see someone using one of the cameras that is hooked up to a television set, thrilled that the friend they are pointing the lens towards is now “on TV.” How exhilarating. It reminds me of the scene from The Jerk where Steve Martin is excited to have his name in print, after he picks up a phone book.

I like to think I have good taste in TV. My favorite shows are The Office and 30 Rock, and I’m a big fan of Arrested Development, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report. And you can never go wrong with Law and Order – unless it’s followed by the words “Criminal Intent.” As an aside, how did Jeff Goldblum’s career come to this?

“Jeff, we’ve got two offers. One is for ‘Law and Order: Criminal Intent.’ The other is for ‘Jurassic Park: Havana Nights.'”

“Hmmm. How much does the ‘Jurassic Park’ one pay?”

When we first started JDating, I joked with my fiancé that our TV taste was going to be a problem. I’ve never been into reality television, and her TV was permanently set to VH1. Okay, I’m exaggerating – many of her reality shows air on other networks.

Yes, she also likes meaningful and clever shows. But she watches frivolous TV to unwind from a day job, something I will never understand. I’m a standup comedian – my entire job is unwinding.

Millionaire Matchmaker, Dancing With the Stars, The Real Housewives of Orange County, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, “”The Real Housewives of New York,” and “The Real Housewives: Criminal Intent.” If the show is about trainwrecks with money, she watches it.

Both of us love a cozy evening in watching TV. But a night where I make her watch The Daily Show or she makes me watch Dancing With the Stars would be anything but cozy. Though at least one of us would get some sleep.

Now that we’re engaged, we share a Tivo, and the poor thing is schizophrenic. If we record “Mythbusters” and “The Dog Whisperer,” the Tivo searches for two guys trying to blow up a dog. Which I believe was the plot of “Air Bud.”

We do have some shows we can agree on. We both love The Office and 30 Rock, and we simultaneously stumbled on Ninja Warrior, which we’re inexplicably drawn to. But the real solution is that we’ve promised to give each other’s shows at least one try, and if that try fails, we won’t force it.

It turns out I enjoy Desperate Housewives and Glee, and she kind of likes Family Guy. And we both love Golden Girls and Mad Men – we find them to be equally edgy and well-written. We must really enjoy characters born in the 1920s.

We also both loved Jersey Shore, and bonded over how we were both equally embarrassed that the crazy stalker was Israeli. Come on, Jewish women – you can do better than Pauly D.

And yes, there’s still plenty of TV that one of us wants to watch that bores the other. When I’m on the road, she’ll catch up on various shows about vampires. When I’m home and she’s at work, I’ll catch up on politics. Which is odd, considering both involve blood-suckers with no regard for human life.

If she wants to watch a documentary about a two-legged dog, I will use the opportunity to write. If I want to watch the Mets game, she’ll check her email. Which is also odd, considering both involve wounded animals with no chance of finishing first.

By giving each other’s shows a chance (and not forcing anything that’s not working), we have found a way to compromise for each other without compromising our tastes. Also, we have found that Tivo makes an XL model.

*
Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central, but you’re more likely to have seen him on the last Barbara Walters Special. Originally published on jdate.com.

How to Find Love Online

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

By Steve Hofstetter

Steve Hofstetter

NEW YORK — The main benefit of dating websites is that they’re incredibly targeted. You can search for exactly what you’re looking for. It’s like a giant game of red rover.

“Red rover, Red rover. Would Jewish women 25-35 who like baseball and don’t smoke come over.”

Of course, to find exactly what you’re looking for, you have to be honest. Yes, that’s right – you’re not perfect for everyone. I know, it’s a terrible thing to realize. I’ll give you a minute to recover.

The vast majority of us grew up fairly unpopular. That’s how it works – there are two or three popular kids at each school, five to ten hangers on, and then a big pile of the rest of us. Fear not, being part of the rest-of-us-pile is what gave you a personality. I pray that my kids will not be popular. I’d rather spend my Saturday nights reminding my son how wonderful his life will be after graduation than bailing him out of jail.

Because of our rest-of-us-pile upbringing, we have been trained to want as many dates as possible. We had so few options when we were young and awkward that by the time we’re older and actually desirable, we want to make up for everything we allegedly lost out on. Except most of what we “lost out on” wasn’t something to lose.

Think of Yom Kippur, and how hungry you are after the fast. The first few years, you pig out the second you hear the shofar. But after a few years of getting sick from eating too much, you remember that it’s best to have a bagel and be done with it.

I’ve seen some JDate profiles designed to elicit as many first dates as possible. They are generic, probably due to a fear of turning anyone off, lest the dating pool be cut down by a few drops. So you found a way to maximize how many first dates you can get. I don’t see the point – unless you’re writing your sociology dissertation on awkward conversation.

One date with a deep connection is better than ten dates with little to no compatibility. On your heart, your schedule, and your wallet.

If the goal is to find someone you’re truly compatible with, you need to be honest about who you are. There’s a great line in Annie Hall where a couple is asked why they’re happy. She says, “I’m very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say.” He responds, “And I’m exactly the same way.”

Despite being relatively worthless, they found each other through honesty. But enough about Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag.

So how do you find your match? Be honest – both with your potential mate, and yourself. If you don’t like dogs, talk about why. If you are a political activist, discuss your party affiliation. And if you’re a New Jersey Nets fan, well, write that and maybe you’ll get sympathy.

Don’t write that you’re smart. If you were, you’d be smart enough to know not to say something that egotistical. Don’t write that you’re funny – funny people are funny enough to simply be funny. When you write those kinds of things, you’re saying that you’re only smart and funny in comparison to the boring friends you surround yourself with. But enough about Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag.

As a writer, I understand I have a slight advantage on dating websites. It’s the same advantage lawyers have when they get a speeding ticket and realtors have when selling a house. Though right now, I don’t think anyone has an advantage when selling a house.

But anyone can be a writer when it comes to finding your match. Because you don’t have to be creative or suspenseful or rhyme – you just have to be honest. And someone will be attracted to that.

I know some of you are reading this and thinking how hard it is to tell the world about yourself in such a small space. And you’re doing that while updating your Facebook status 140 characters at a time.

So take your time when crafting a profile, and be confident about who you really are. Ask friends to read it over and see if it accurately describes you and what you’re looking for. But don’t change to trick someone into dating you – you’ll revert back to the real you in a few months, and have to start all over.

If you’re honest, there might be less people to play with. But the game will be way more fun.

*
Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central, but you’re more likely to have seen him on the last Barbara Walters Special. Originally published on jdate.com.

Silent One Day Sale, Holy One Day Sale

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

By Steve Hofstetter

NEW YORK — I imagine it’s much more difficult to be a Jew on Christmas than it is to be a Christian on Hanukah. You don’t find many Hanukah specials about families  getting stranded in an airport learning the true meaning of the
menorah.

But if there were lots of Hanukah specials, I’d be just as annoyed as I am at those about Christmas. I finally realized that I do not dislike most Christmas specials because they are about a holiday I do not celebrate – I dislike them because they’re really, really cheesy.

I love the original Grinch cartoon. The Peanuts specials are always fun, and Seinfeld’s Festivus episode is a classic. A number of sit-coms have simply had funny events happen at Christmas parties, which is fine considering that the holiday is a part of our country’s pop culture. But the shows that have people changing their lives based on the true meaning of Christmas really exasperate me.

I am a very spiritual person, and I have never changed my life based on the true meaning of a holiday. And let’s just say that learning the true meaning of a holiday, sans bastardization, was actually possible. Would we want that lesson to come from ABC Family?

Any holiday is okay in small doses, but TV networks go absolutely nuts on Christmas. I am pretty patriotic, and generally a big fan of the whole America thing. But I wouldn’t be able to accept a bunch of sitcoms telling me the true meaning of July 4th. Imagine the final two weeks of every June filled with TV characters ending episodes with an arm-in-arm chorus of “My Country Tis of Thee.” Which they couldn’t do because no one knows the second verse.

There were several ABC sitcoms that have two Christmas episodes. Sure, ABC sitcoms are always ridiculous, but how long are they trying to celebrate this holiday? I know about the supposed “Twelve days of Christmas” thing, but I don’t know anyone who actually celebrates the holiday for more than a day
and a half. I bet someone in religion marketing noticed that   Hanukah has eight days, anddecided that something had to be done to compete. “They have eight  days? Well,  we can have twelve!” But if you’re going go 150% on the Jews, you  have to keep  it up across the board. Every Yom Kippur, Jews don’t eat for 25
hours. If you  can go 37.5, I’ll give you 12 days of Christmas. Until then, forget
about your  golden rings and admit that Christmas is a one-day event.

I wonder if any Christian kid actually enjoys all of the Christmas sitcoms. I doubt that there are any 19-year-olds watching TV during winter break saying, “you know, I completely missed the point of this holiday. Come on, everybody – let’s go caroling!”

TV execs should realize that the way Christmas is portrayed on the majority of their shows is not how it’s celebrated in a majority of the country. First of all, more than half the marriages in America end in divorce, which destroys the notion of the large family meal with everyone accounted for. Right
there, you’ve already entered minority territory. Then there’s the realization
that not  everyone is Christian (gasp!), and some of the people who are
Christian don’t have a dozen relatives that want to come over for dinner. And most importantly, a lot of people out there don’t get along well enough with their extended family to do anything but hurl insults and mashed potatoes.

In a rush to beat each other to the holiday punch (ba-dum!), TV networks have been airing Christmas episodes earlier and earlier. It used to be the week before Christmas. Then it was two weeks before Christmas. Now, they air the first week of December. Pretty soon, Christmas specials will start so early that they’ll air during the Christmas prior. And the year in between will just be one continuous commercial.

Uncle Jesse can tell DJ all he wants about how Christmas is about love and selflessness and family, but not until after Macy’s tells you about  their one-day sale. There is a certain irony to running all those sale ads during the  heartwarming story of a family learning about the wise men. The only wise men here are the ones in the ad department.

Christmas TV teaches you that you should give. And to help, it also
directs you to the nearest store. Driving up profits in the retail sector is
the true meaning of Christmas sitcoms, and that’s something I discovered
without the help of a snowed-in airport.

Learning this true meaning has made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Come on everyone – let’s carol. How does that Macy’s jingle go?

*
Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has
been VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central, but you’re more likely to have seen him on the last Barbara Walters Special.

Why I’m marrying a Jewish girl

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment

By Steve Hofstetter

NEW YORK—I have spent the better part of the last four years convincing my parents that I don’t need to marry a Jewish girl. Turns out I was wrong. It’s not the first time that’s happened. Though it may be the first time I’m admitting it to them.

Every Jew of my generation grew up with the irrefutable truth that we had to marry Jewish, or all Jews would die out and everyone who was already Jewish would spontaneously convert.

We were told that with the current rate of intermarriage, Jews would die out in three generations. That was a lot to put on my lanky shoulders. While you’re at it. why don’t you tell me I’m Neo and offer to unplug me from the Matrix. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the ship in the Matrix is named “Zion.”

As a 14-year-old, I was repeatedly instructed that my destiny was to help repopulate the planet with Jews. That’s hard to grasp at that age. At that point, I’d only found one girl in the entire city willing to kiss me – if I was going to save my religion, I’d have to get moving.

I lived in a predominantly Latino, Indian, and Asian neighborhood, but was exposed to plenty of Jewish girls. I was an active member of United Synagogue Youth, I worked at Camp Ramah, and even my high school and college had large populations of Jews (thank you, New York City). Every
girl I dated in high school was Jewish. Though I can’t fully take credit for that choice – a lanky bespectacled bookworm might do well at a Shabbaton, but that’s not the look most wasps go for.

By the time I was graduating college, I’d traded lanky for lean and
bookworm for well read. For the first time in my dating life, I had
options – but I held on to the irrational belief that if I didn’t marry a Jewish girl, Kirk Cameron would win.

I dated a non-Jew senior year, who was convinced that the reason I broke it off was because she wasn’t Jewish. Actually, I broke it off because she never made me laugh. Maybe if she was Jewish, she’d have had a better sense of humor. But when she told people I dumped her was because she wasn’t Jewish, I began to feel prejudiced.

Haven’t Jews always said that people should not be persecuted for their religious beliefs? So why shouldn’t I marry someone wonderful, who just happens to pray while kneeling?

The more I traveled, the more wonderful non-Jews I met. I tried dating all the Jewish women in Alabama, North Dakota, and West Virginia, but I wasn’t attracted to her. (Ba-zing!)

I ended up with a few non-Jewish girlfriends in a row – even buying a Christmas tree for one of them. That led to the statement most Jewish men of my background have said to their mothers at one point.

“Mom, I’m full.”

Kidding. What I said was, “Isn’t how she treats people more important than her religion?”

After a few hours of reminding me of everyone from Moses to Sandy Koufax, my mother had to concede that she’d rather I end up with a sweet and loving Christian than a mean and uncaring woman whose mother happened to be born Jewish. And thus, she had to admit that logically, religion was not her number one priority.

I was off the hook, kind of. I had logically browbeaten my mother into submission – into reluctant permission to marry a non-Jew. But something strange happened. As I grew up and began looking for “the one,” I started looking for her to be Jewish. “Ha Echat,” if you will.

What dozens of youth leaders and camp counselors had failed to explain to me was the one point I took away from my debate with my mother. That marrying a Jewish woman is simply better for me. It’s not about my kids or the future of our entire people. It’s about chemistry, and finding someone that’s passionate about what I love. And one thing that I love is being Jewish.

I love kibbitzing during kiddush, without having to explain either of those words to someone. I love knowing what baseball players are Jewish, and rooting for them a bit more because of it. I love eating buttered matzah the first morning of Passover (though by the eighth, I’m not as big of a fan). I finally realized that I don’t have to be Judah Macabee – I just have to be me. And it’s a lot more rewarding to share your life with someone who truly understands it.

I reactivated the J-Date profile my mother had encouraged me to have in college. On day one, I IMed Sara. On day two, we met. On day five, we were exclusive. And on day 51, I asked her to marry me.

Did I fall in love with Sara because she’s Jewish? Without performing a series of bizarre and potentially illegal experiments, I’ll never know for sure. But I do know that I enjoyed going to services with her on the High Holidays. I enjoyed eating with her in my brother’s Sukkah. And I enjoyed looking at pictures of her Bat Mitzvah knowing she grew up just as lanky and bookwormish as I.

So when you tell your kids that you want them to find a nice Jewish girl,or boy, or who cares what it is as long as it’s Jewish, I suggest you tell them why. They’re not looking for someone Jewish because it’s important to you. They’re looking for someone Jewish because it’s important to them.

I love you, Sara. And I look forward to teaching our kids to marry Jewish, too.

**
Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central, but you’re more likely to have seen him on the last Barbara Walters Special.