Originally opened in 1982 by Dan Lafferty and his wife Jody on Patterson Road, Wiley’s Comedy Club is one of the longest running clubs in the country and the oldest in Ohio. Sometime in 1990 the club moved to it’s current home in the Historic Oregon District. After 17 years at the helm of the business Lafferty sold the club to stand up comic Rob Haney, who is also a writer for the Bob & Tom radio show. Now, fourteen years later, and for the first time in the club history, the new ownership group are not Daytonians. The team is headed up by stand up comic Steve Hofstetter.
Author’s confession- I worked at Wiley’s in 1993, before I bought Jokers Comedy Cafe. It was at Jokers that I first booked Hofstetter, bringing him in for a special one night show he was promoting aimed at college students. I’d never seen his show, but based on his success on the college circuit, his status as the original writer for collegehumor.com, and his persistence in pursuing the booking, I took a chance on him. While I don’t remember much about his humor (which generally means his show was fine- the ones that sucked and those that rocked the rooms are the ones that stand out from my 25+ years of comedy) what I did come away with was the sense that this New Yorker had the determination and drive to make a success out of anything he undertook. I lost track of him along the way, but would occasionally hear about his latest accomplishment. I heard he’d taken over a failing club in Indy and knew he was still hustling his way through comedy clubs.
Then one morning in July I started getting phone calls and facebook messages asking if I’d bought Wiley’s. Rumors were out that Rob had sold the club and folks were asking if I’d bought the club. I chuckled, and gave my standard answer, “been there, done that, not going back.” Later that day I posted this update on the MostMetro.com Facebook page:
“As of October 1st, Wiley’s Comedy Club will have new ownership. Comedian Steve Hofstetter will be the managing partner.
This will be the 3rd club they own, adding to their Indy and Louisville clubs. Steve is a hustler and knows how to promote so expect some exciting things to happen when he takes over!”
So I reached out to Steve and asked him a few questions about taking over Wiley’s:
What made Dayton an attractive city for you to buy a club in?
SH: I’ve been performing there for ten years. I’ve done shows at multiple clubs, as well as Wright State and U. of Dayton. The vibe of the neighborhood in particular is what got us. It is a working class town, but filled with artists and young people actively looking for something interesting to do. Who wouldn’t want to run a club here? It’s also a Bob & Tom city, and so are our other clubs. This club in particular is a great fit – amazing bones, but not doing much re: social media and modern technology, which is what we do best. In addition, we specialize in clubs in the midwest. Our other two are in Louisville and Indy – both 2 hours from Dayton. We can do wonderful things regarding routing big comedians through the three cities.
What changes can guests expect at the club?
SH: Our philosopy is that we are responsible for the customer’s night as soon as they get out of their car, and every aspect of the experience must be considered accordingly. Our other clubs are known for quality food and a vast liquor selection, in addition to great talent. Because we have the ability to book in bulk, customers will quickly see an increase in celeb acts. We will also focus on building more of the local artists – with opportunities to grow in our organization, we’ll be teaching the local comedians to think beyond open mics and hopefully churn out some amazing acts from the scene. Rob Haney has done great things at Wiley’s over the years. Our job is to take it to the next level.
Who’s your favorite all time comic and favorite still playing clubs? (and no, you can’t say yourself)
SH: All time is Bill Hicks. Also love me some Mitch Hedberg and Eddie Izzard (who is still gigging, just not at clubs). My favorite current club acts are probably Greg Warren and Tom Simmons. But there are so many wonderful ones it’s really hard to choose (MM:Since Greg Warren is probably my best friend in comedy, Steve wins some brownie points for that answer).
So tonight, is the first night of the new regime and it’s ladies night, all women get in free on Thursday. And the first comic they have booked is another good buddy of mine, B.T.
Originally from Oklahoma and now living in Indy, this drama school graduate trained for the rigors of making people laugh and has been so successful that he has performed at the prestigious HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. B.T.’s physical performance style and charm landed him two performances on NBC’s “Friday Night Videos”. He has also appeared on BET Comic View, MTV’s The Jenny McCarthy Show, and FOX’s The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show. B.T. is only on the show for tonight, come this weekend, Steve Hofstetter will be taking the stage at his newest club.
Wishing them well and looking forward to the new energy Hofstetter will bring to Wiley’s Comedy Joint. Stop on out to the club at 101 Pine Street in the Oregon District, with shows Thursday through Sunday at 8pm, with a second show at 10:15pm on Friday and Saturday. You can purchase tickets on their website or call the club for more information at 937-224-5653.