Get ready to LAUGH Pittsburgh! The newest comedy player on the scene is Steel City AF (AF obviously standing for arts foundation). This spot is located in Stanton Heights just a few minutes from Pittsburgh’s beloved Lawrenceville neighborhood. While Steel City AF isn’t fully open to the public just yet, we are here to give you the scoop ahead of time so you’re fully prepared when everything goes live! Plus there are a couple of ways you can join in the fun right now if you’re a lover of comedy or a comedian yourself.
The old church where you will find Steel City AF was most recently occupied by another community celebrating the arts and was seen as the perfect location for the brick-and-mortar location of Steel City AF. Opened by Steve Hofstetter, local comedian, and creator of the Martin Foundation, this work/live/play space is one of a kind. The main performance area is decked out in equipment donated by the Rex Theater when it closed, including lights, mics, speakers, and more! Who doesn’t love local supporting local?
In the main hall, you’ll also find uniquely painted sound panels to cover the large windows (because the neighbors don’t need to hear each performance from their homes). These panels were painted by local artist John Maurice Muldoon. Muldoon has also been selected to do a mural on the exterior of the building after the neighborhood and Steel City AF collectively decide on something that resonates with all parties. Several other pieces of work throughout the building were done by Muldoon as well, and are so uniquely Pittsburgh! One is pictured in this article, the heads of local personalities on a large mural. Another one of our favorites is the past and present depiction of Pittsburgh from its roots in the steel industry to where it is today.
Other notable pieces you will see around the building are the tribute paintings to honor comedians who have passed by artist/actress Leedy Corbin and a creative listing recognizing monetary donors to Steel City AF. The listing of donors is in the pattern of the number 42. That might seem random, but the idea behind it is so meaningful. The 42 signifies the number Jackie Robinson wore. Robinson was owner Steve’s father’s favorite player and coincidentally 1942 was the year Steve’s father, Martin, was born. As a foundation that relies on the generosity of contributors, anyone who donates $42 or more to the foundation gets their name displayed on this list of donors. There truly is something cool to look at no matter where you are in the facility.
Now let’s get into the comedy! Currently, Steel City AF’s facility is not open to the public, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the shows their comedians put on. One of Steel City AF’s awesome partners is Hop Farm Brewing in Lawrenceville. The resident comedians from Steel City AF as well as other members of their foundation’s group perform at shows held at Hop Farm. Their next show is November 22nd headlined by Steve Hofstetter himself and hosted by resident comedian, Learnmore Jonasi. This show is sure to be a hit! Tickets can be purchased here.
Currently, 30 comedians are members of Steel City AF. Some of these local names are Matty Malloy, Shaun McCarthy, Stacey Fleurime, and Jeff Fieldhouse. As members, comedians participate in shows around the city hosted by Steel City AF, have access to recording equipment to put out albums and podcasts, receive mentorship training, and more. Any night of the week you can catch shows of these comedians from coffee shops to each Thursday night at Bellevue’s 565Live’s Comedy Foundry for an open mic.
Want more comedy? As a patron who donates to Steel City AF, you can gain access to the 7 pm Sunday virtual shows where resident comedians will perform new work and get pointers from professional comedians. We got to chat with two of the current residents at Steel City AF, Learnmore Jonasi and Ronnie Fleming. These guys had some awesome stuff to say about their experience thus far as Steel City Arts Foundation Martin House Grantees.
Fleming said being associated with Steel City AF comes with a responsibility that makes you want to help people rather than competing. Outside of the residency, Fleming is a New Yorker and said the environment at Steel City AF is encouraging to all comedians in the space. Plus Fleming said it is cool to be roommates with two other comedians in the Martin House to motivate yourself and bounce off of each other! Fleming also told us he is a big fan of Steve Martin and Tom Petty as inspiration for his style.
Jonasi told us that coming from Zimbabwe he didn’t know much about America or any people in this country, but being associated with Steel City AF has helped with exposure and helped his skill set grow. He described his style as inspired by Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carrey, and Dave Chapelle!
The residencies at Martin House are such an incredible way Steel City AF helps comedians gain exposure and sharpen their craft.
Interested in joining Steel City AF as a comedian?! As we mentioned there are awesome perks to being a part of this group, and there is truly so much more than what we already mentioned. By supporting folks that want to make a career of comedy, Steel City AF provides the opportunity to reside residentially at the Martin House, if you’re not local to Pittsburgh, for a nine-month stint. Also, as an out-of-towner, after the facility is fully up and running, there is a guest suite for those passing through that need a place to stay after their performance. All residents and members also receive access to the “Jim” to work out. Steel City AF knows how important it is to maintain your health and well-being while working especially with comedy being a largely evening/nighttime profession with a lot of potential travel. The “Jim” or gym and its equipment was made possible through the dollars of generous donors.
Other cool features of being a member comedian include access to a library of comedy books within the recording studio. These books are donated from all over and offer insight into a lot of different styles of comedy, making it perfect for those starting and finding their style! Classes, workshops, and a community Facebook page also help members stay connected and give them a space to chat with others in the comedy space.
Keep an eye out for future shows from Steel City AF, their members, and residents learnmore Jonasi and Ronnie Fleming by following their social media @steelcityaf. Plus get ready for the grand opening of this cool new comedy group in Stanton Heights coming soon….This content was provided by a local, independent contributor to Made in PGH, a lifestyle blog.