Steve Hofstetter used to dream of becoming a stand-up comedian. But he had one problem — he could not remember his routine.
While an undergraduate at Columbia University, Hofstetter found a way to fulfill his dream of making people laugh. He wrote down his punch lines and compiled a humor book titled “Student Body Shots: A Sarcastic Look at the Best 4-6 Years of Your Life.”
Hofstetter, 23, shares aspects of his college experience in the form of jokes known as “shots” in his newly released book. These shots are essentially one to two sentence punch lines related to aspects of college which are organized in chapters ranging from dating to academics to AOL Instant Messenger.
“People lose all inhibition over IM. You can confess your love, tell someone off, or make crude sexual jokes that would otherwise be inappropriate. It’s like being drunk but without the beer. Or the play,” Hofstetter wrote in the book.
While at Columbia, Hofstetter said he began writing and sharing shots through e-mail with his friends. Soon his attempt to make a few of his buddies laugh snowballed into a weekly online column at collegehumor.com, which reached an audience of about 3,000 students.
The shots, some of which were featured online, were released in book form this September at the Columbia University bookstore.
One goal in writing the book, Hofstetter said, was to provide an image of college life that is not sugar-coated by guidance counselors or college guides. High school students can read the book and find an accurate description of what really goes on at college, he said.
“Guidance counselors went to school 30 years ago,” Hofstetter said. “They have no way to know about a school’s ethernet or current social life.”
Today’s college students will be able to recognize a bit of themselves in the book, he said. College graduates, no matter what their age, can nostalgically relate to the college themes he satirizes.
“People who are 80 can still relate to dating,” Hofstetter said.
A lot of the book is universal, he said, and will be true as long as the present college system exists.
Even though Hofstetter admits that he “majored in fraternity,” he has professional writing experience. At Columbia he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, and he took a year off of school to work for the publications department of the New York Yankees. Now living in Boston, he does freelance writing for magazines such as ESPN: The Magazine and Maxim.
“I don’t think my opinion is better than anyone else’s,” Hofstetter said, “but I wrote it down and people seem to enjoy it. If I have to move into my parent’s basement I know I’m wrong.”
Even though Hofstetter has graduated from college, he said the idea of college still plays a major role in his life. He lives in Boston, surrounded by college students. He wrote a book about college life. He travels to college campuses to promote his book. Yet, he makes it clear that he did not write “Body Shots” to add another year of college to his life.
“It is impossible to hold on to college,” Hofstetter said.
Instead, Hofstetter said he is enjoying his life after college.
“Post-college is fun but a different kind of fun where you actually have personal responsibility,” he said.
Hofstetter said he realizes that writing a humor book as his first post-college project in an effort to fulfill these “real world” responsibilities could have been nerve-wracking.
One of the frustrating things about writing a humor book, he said, is that you cannot change the content based on reader response like you can adapt a comedy routine to an audience’s reaction.
“If you write something, you have no way of knowing if it works until readers send you hate mail,” Hofstetter said.
And in addition to the difficulty writers often have finding publishers, Hofstetter said his relatively young age was another barrier he had to overcome in producing “Body Shots.”
“Like a high school freshman, rejection is going to be part of your world,” he said.
Hofstetter added that he still keeps a stack of rejection letters from big publishers saying that “people will not be interested in a book about college life.”
Hofstetter said he hopes to prove these critics wrong, but more importantly, he just wants to make people laugh. If he makes one person laugh, Hofstetter said, he has done his job for the day.
Hofstetter admitted that there is a lot he wants to say to the world about everything from the designated hitter to his views on the state of Israel. But at least for now, he said, he will stick to making people laugh.
“I don’t think everyone should agree with my political views,” Hofstetter said, “but everyone should laugh.”
As for life after “Body Shots,” Hofstetter said he plans to continue his writing career. His publishers have requested a sequel, and he said he also has a first draft of a second book finished.
But if there’s anything he learned from college, it’s that it’s a time to find out what makes you happy, Hofstetter said.
“The earlier you can figure out what makes you happy, the more time you’ll have to be happy — writing makes me happy,” he said.