Strip Clubs and Funerals: Ian Steffe Records a Comedy Hour at Headroom


Last Thursday, March 5, local comedic storyteller Ian Steffé recorded a live album at Headroom Bar and Social. Steffé’s hour-long recorded set, humbly promoted as, “A Live Comedy Recording,” was a New Year’s resolution.

“It’s an hour of me doing my very best under the most ideal circumstances of the crowd which were and genuinely are my friends. The experience was really awesome, and I recommend to anyone that wants to try, they should do it.”

Ian Steffé Photo by Joshua Lay

Steffé is known for his long-form standup as well as for storytelling and is the co-host of the Wednesday mixed-mic show “Take a Compliment,” also at Headroom, a mid-sized event space that that has an industrial feel with dark drapes for an ambiance like a vampire lair.

Though mostly a jazz venue, Headroom also hosts comedy shows. The owner, Howard Brunner admits, “I love great comedy, and I love comedy clubs, preferably shows that slide into the wee hours in pitch-black rooms with cigarette smoke in the air. Of course you cannot allow that anymore.”

Diana Zini, Steffé’s co-host of “Take a Compliment,” gave a heart-warming introduction that  included the history of their friendship, meeting at the now-defunct FM Monday night mic, and visiting Headroom to eventually develop their own mic night there. “When Ian and I visited this space, Ian immediately had a vision for it.”

According to a press release sent by Diana Zini: “Ian Steffé was born in a small, idyllic town in Massachusetts and moved to Arizona at age 19. Around that time, he started doing standup, often opening for bands. Eventually finding his way back to the East Coast, Steffé had tried being an impressionist and a political comic until one night someone recorded him ranting outside of a club. That recording got him an invitation from Risk!, a storytelling podcast. ‘I realized one can’t plagiarize their own experience.’ And so his voice as a comedic storyteller was found.”

This event couldn’t have taken place without Zini. A soulful musician in her own right, “she helped so much to make this experience happen because of her almost annoying persistence. She believed in this and needled me and coached me in every step of this,” Steffé said.

Onstage, Zini talked about Steffé’s rough week. His father, who had been a beloved character in many of Steffé’s stories, had passed away the week before. Indeed, Steffé had just come back from the funeral in Arizona the previous day — but rather than cancel the show under the circumstances, the headliner dedicated this entertaining, yet heartrending show to his father.

The show opened with the funeral, as the comedian mused on the irony of grieving while organizing the event, which is essentially a party for other people. Later, Steffé invoked his late father who delivered the moral of the story in a bit about a trip to a strip club that involved blood. Be nicer to women, his dad urged.

Steffé’s set was consistently fun, and he held the audience’s attention for a full 40 minutes before going on to tell some shorter stories. At the end, the audience gave him a standing ovation.

Gene D. Plumber, photo by Melissa Surach

Opening acts included Gene Turonis, a veteran Hoboken artist whose stage name is “Gene D. Plumber.” He sang several tunes including a love song about when his wife said, “I wish I never married you.” Plumber was followed by the musical comedian Angela Sharp. She began her set with a song about watching pornography and (referring to the sexual reference) “edging.”

The show was recorded though Steffé doesn’t know what he’s going to do with the recording yet. “I think that’s going to take time to figure out whether or not I’m even selling it or sending it to festivals. I’m so in the dark about this stuff because I’ve only cared about writing jokes and not where it’s going. I feel like a goob.” For now, the raconteur is going back to Arizona to keep his mom company.

Steffé does know what the final product will be called. It will be called “A Lot” because, as he explains, “I feel like that’s an insult I’ve gotten since middle school. Bosses teachers, exes. All of them called me ‘a lot,’ and at this point I’m wearing it with pride.”

“This is the first time in my life where I have this much content. And I feel polished. I want to see where this can go.”

Angela Sharp, photo by Melissa Surach

Header: Photo by Melissa Surach

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Melissa Surach

About Melissa Surach

Melissa Surach is a writer and comedian who was born and raised in Jersey City. She has an MFA in writing from The New School. She writes about comedy, booze, food, ghosts, theater and more. For more about her, go to melissasurach.com.