Local comedian Jeff Horste performs onstage. Horste, a Southfield native, will be featured on the Comedy Central show “Kevin Hart Presents: The Next Level” this month.

Local comedian Jeff Horste performs onstage. Horste, a Southfield native, will be featured on the Comedy Central show “Kevin Hart Presents: The Next Level” this month.

Photo provided by Jeff Horste

Local comedian to be featured on Comedy Central stand-up special

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published August 9, 2018


SOUTHFIELD — When it comes to being funny, either got it or you don’t. 

And according to famed comedian Kevin Hart, Southfield native Jeff Horste has got it. 

So much so that Hart gave Horste his own half-hour special on Comedy Central. 

Horste will be featured on “Kevin Hart Presents: The Next Level,” which will air at 11 p.m. Aug. 24.

Hart will interview Horste, and then the program will launch into Horste’s stand-up routine. 

Growing up as the “token white kid” helped Horste develop his funny bone from an early age, he said. He’s a 2005 graduate of Southfield High School, having moved to the city when he was a week old. 

“I think that in the beginning, when I did comedy, I didn’t feel as comfortable in the mainstream whiter community — I didn’t feel as confident in those areas,” Horste said. “But when I was playing the black rooms, it was like I was talking to my friends. I’ve always been the token white kid in my group of friends, so it felt easier to relate, and I was more confident in those scenarios. I think that’s what helped my style and perspective on comedy.”

Horste said he started doing stand-up on a whim in college at Eastern Michigan University when a friend recommended that he do a set at a burrito joint in Ann Arbor. 

Pressure for the gig was low, Horste said, as he had heard that the comedians who performed there left something to be desired.

“They had an open mic and they kind of recommended me to do it. They said, ‘Hey, they’re really not that funny here. You can’t be any worse than them, so there’s nothing to lose if you want to try it.’ I checked it out and thought maybe I can do that. So I gave it a shot, and people started recommending other open mics and shows to do in different cities, and it kind of spiraled from there,” Horste said. 

For about four years Horste performed as a hobby, all while working at Jimmy John’s, selling cable door-to-door and working on a college degree.

“I wasn’t that good in the beginning. It took a while to get the confidence and not come off as nervous — the less nervous you are, the easier it is to get into it. For me, it wasn’t even working on the jokes. It was trying to get people to listen to me,” Horste said. “They’re not going to listen to you if you’re staring at the ground the whole time. I was kind of doing it with the idea that it was just a hobby, and then I realized, ‘I’m better at this than I thought.’” 

Since then, Horste has worked in some of the top clubs and festivals throughout the country, including the Fox TV show “Laughs,” and he has performed at Atlanta’s Laughing Skull Comedy Festival, the Boston Comedy Festival, and the Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival. 

He was featured on another Hart comedy special, “Kevin Hart Presents: Hart of the City,” with three other comedians from the Detroit area. 

After his performance on “Hart of the City,” Horste was invited back for his own special. 

“It was weird because I thought I’d be way more nervous than I was,” he said. “We filmed it at the Orpheum Theatre in (Los Angeles), which was a big crowd and a beautiful theater. The whole treatment of it from start to finish is something I wasn’t used to. I wasn’t used to having a barber whenever I wanted for a few days   — the treatment all around was humbling.”

Big city lights aside, Horste is still no stranger to performing in his hometown. Recently he headlined at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak. 

Ridley, founder of the club, said Horste is a “rising star.”

“The thing that is very unique about Jeff — and I’m not being trite here — is he’s really good at playing to a crossover audience. He can play both white and black crowds, and they really relate to him. It’s very rare in this business,” Ridley said. “I’m not saying it can’t be done, but he does it with such humor that everybody gets what he’s talking about.”

For aspiring local comedians, Horste’s advice is to work hard but have fun. 

“You really have no idea how good you’re going to be for a while. You can do it every day for two years straight, and then something can click and help you drastically improve. If you enjoy doing it, there’s no reason not to,” he said. “It’s still supposed to be fun, though. I think a lot of people treat it like a business. You might as well work at Kroger. Why pick a job that’s flexible if it’s going to stress you out?”