Nationally known comedian and former Los Angeles resident Steve Hofstetter now calls Pittsburgh home — and he’s embarking on his second purchase of a local church.
Hofstetter was the host and executive producer of season one of “Laughs” on FOX and appeared on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” His previous experience with buying Pittsburgh churches came when he began turning one into the home of the nonprofit Steel City Arts Foundation in Stanton Heights in 2020. In late December of that year, he announced he was moving from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh.
Hofstetter’s latest venture involves turning a former church into a comedy club and film production studio, though it hasn’t actually been a house of worship in some 30 years. The commercially zoned building Hofstetter purchased is the former Melwood Party Center located at 3312 Babcock Blvd. in Ross, about five minutes southwest of Ross Park mall. The purchase deal is set to be finalized on March 30 and Hofstetter said he plans to begin construction that afternoon.
His plans include turning the former chapel into a 200 to 300-seat performance space for comedy, theater, music and special events. Hoffstetter also has plans to use the 20,000 square feet of studio space to produce films.
“I started looking around at places where we’d be able to shoot pretty easily. I found this space and it’s great because it allows for live events and filming and it’s also got a recording studio,” Hofstetter said.
“There is an area that is currently being used for storage that we’re going to turn into a workshop, and that’s where sets will be built,” he said. “And then the sets will be used in the former chapel. The cool part is that sets are not very three-dimensional. It’s pretty much a back wall, and so we’ll be able to move those around and when we do shows and live events, you could be sitting there watching from a barber shop or a bar or a living room, etc. The décor will be constantly changing and unique.”
His latest project is a for-profit venture that he believes will benefit his fellow comedians.
“That’s the hope and not just comedy,” Hofstetter said. “That’s the world I specialize in. That’s the world I know. The chapel is going to be gorgeous. It’s going to be able to have spoken word or music or weddings or all kinds of events. It’s just going to be a really cool vibe and something people will really enjoy.”
Hofstetter said he also sees this venue as an incubator for performers.
“The way that the chapel is structured, the stage itself is so large that it has a curtain to separate it (and) the stage becomes a small performance area,” Hofstetter said. “And so, when you’re not using the entire room, you curtain off the stage and then that seats 30 to 40 people. And so, we’ll be able to have open mics, we’ll be able to have smaller shows. It’s like a black box within a theater.”
Hofstetter said he plans to bring in some bigger-name comics, which will create opportunities for local comedians to open for them.
In keeping with the humorous motif, he even plans to have a piece called “Sunken Bus” as part of the décor – a tribute to the public transit bus that dropped into a sinkhole in Downtown Pittsburgh during a Monday morning rush hour in 2019.
“The thing that I have enjoyed most since I moved here is just how proud of Pittsburgh that Pittsburghers are,” Hofstetter said. “Whatever happens here, whether it’s good or bad, it’s our city. That’s something that I’ve not experienced before. I grew up in New York. I lived in L.A. You don’t feel that there. And so I really wanted to give a tip of the cap to that.”
The target date for the space in Ross to open is sometime this summer, according to Hofstetter.
“We want to make it a really fun space.”