I'm often asked why I became a comedian. People want to know what happened when I was a kid to give me a sense of humor, to create a need to tell jokes. And I respond that when I was eight, my parents took me to a gay dance club on New Year's Eve.
Neither of my parents are gay. Nor is my brother or either of my two sisters. And I don't have a problem with anyone else being gay. I just don't think that the best parenting maneuver is to take your eight-year-old to a gay dance club on New Year's Eve.
I think I was eight. I may have been six, I may have been ten. That doesn't change things. I may get a few of the facts of this story wrong. But I recall a number of still images, and a few short mind-movie clips of the event. I know that I was a kid, and so were my siblings. And I know my parents took me to a gay dance club on New Year's Eve.
We were called into my parents' bedroom that afternoon while they were looking for plans. "What do you think of the Barefoot Boogie?" my mother asked. She was reading a newspaper and going through the event listings, looking for something inexpensive for the whole family. The listing advertised a free dance in Manhattan, and anything free in Manhattan on New Year's Eve has GOT to be good.
We uttered many pleas of "lame!" or "not!" or whatever the word for "thing parents like but kids hate" was at the time. But my mother called and asked if the place was family friendly. The voice on the other end of the phone said yes and told her there'd be food, probably thinking to himself, "you're asking if a gay dance club is family friendly? You have got to be the most clueless parents ever." I'm sure he hung up and had many laughs and figured that any family would have to realize that he was joking before they actually arrived. Meet the Hofstetters.
I don't remember the car ride I'm sure it was fairly uneventful. I had countless New Year's Eve car rides with my family, the tradition being to drive into terrible traffic in Manhattan around dinner time to see the crowds that gathered around us as if to say, "who are the morons driving in Manhattan on New Year's Eve?" But burned in my mind is that particular New Year's Eve, once we got out of the car.
To get to the dance floor, we had to walk through the co-ed locker room. I'd never seen a co-ed locker room, let alone imagined that there'd be a locker room at a dance club. Dance clubs on TV didn't have locker rooms, but hey, I was eight, and maybe I didn't know everything. Maybe people needed to change into their dancing clothes. Which, in this case, was a sequin top and stretch pants. He looked great though.
After the locker room, we walked through a short hallway with a ledge. I remember the ledge because on it there was a giant bag of pretzels and a two liter bottle of Pepsi. That was the food they discussed. I didn't know what it was yet, but something was definitely wrong.
I'm sure my older siblings had more of an idea of what was up than I did. But even I knew that what happened next was ridiculous.
The dance floor opened up in front of us, like a scene from, well, nothing because know one has ever written about anything like this before. The floor had the wood paneling of a high school gym. There was a woman with a large Adam's apple dancing frantically with castanets. There was a solitary white balloon in the corner closest too us. And that was it. Stretch Pants walked by us and even he turned around to leave (after he invested all that time changing!). At which point my mother actually said, "let's give it a chance, it's early."
For the next few minutes, my sister and I batted the balloon back and forth while I can only believe that my other sister and my brother cried inside. We finally left soon after, wondering what we'd just been part of. My parents didn't say much I don't think they wanted to admit what happened.
If you enjoy comedy but never got the chance to pursue it as a career, I don't recommend starting very late in life. The road is tough on you, it can destroy a marriage, and a lot of TV producers won't look at anyone over a certain age. But perhaps you could give your children a start in the field. When they are eight or six or ten, take them to a gay dance club on New Year's Eve.
Therapy bills are cheaper than comedy classes.
Steve Hofstetter is the author of Student Body Shots, which is available at www.SteveHofstetter.com. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.