Danny Masterson on life outside ''That 70s Show'' -- EW talks with the sitcom funnyman about his upcoming projects

Danny Masterson’s not a slacker, but he plays one on TV. For seven seasons, he’s been resident pothead Steve Hyde on Fox’s That ’70s Show, but when the show returns this week (Nov. 2 at 8 p.m.) it’ll be without his buds Eric (Topher Grace) and Kelso (Ashton Kutcher, who will appear in four eps), who’ve bolted for other work. While Masterson is sticking around the Point Place, Wis., basement for another year, he’s got enough going on that he won’t forever be known only as TV’s most loved stoner (”I don’t even smoke pot,” he says. ”I’ve just gotten paid a lot to pretend I do”). He spins records once a week for L.A.’s Indie 103.1 FM, he’s starring in next year’s comedy Easier, Softer Way (directed by and costarring ER‘s Mekhi Phifer), and he’s gearing up for his own directorial debut next spring with the indie black comedy Bunny Wiggins, which takes place — where else? — in a high school. Oh, and did we mention he’s a restaurateur? He co-owns two hot L.A. eateries, Dolce and Geisha House, with ’70s costars Kutcher and Wilmer Valderrama. Masterson took a break from his 15,000 jobs to tell EW how he’s built Masterson, Inc.

Know what makes you marketable. Or, don’t pull a Felicity. I kinda like the power in the white-man ‘fro. In the bouffant. The hair will have to get a little bit shorter after [That ’70s Show ends] — and then it won’t be as powerful. See, my strumpf is in my hair. Now, I don’t know what strumpf means. It’s just a term some brothas gave me.

Career path to emulate: P. Diddy! On the radio I use my real name, but at nightclubs it started as Donkey Punch. Then Puffy changed his to P. Diddy, and I had to change from Punch to Pizzle. And now he’s just Diddy. So I’m gonna have to change mine again at some point. Maybe Donkey Piznatch?

Don’t think about doing a spin-off?even if they beg (Hi, Joey). Spin-offs were never really my thing. I like [Hyde], and he’s fun to play, but it would have more chances of flopping. You never know…. I’m thinking performance art. Short films on the Internet. Shot on Super-16 film? Sort of Warholian. Very arty.

If all else fails, make sure you can get a free meal. I play in a basketball league with one of the owners [of Dolce], and he asked if I wanted in. I mentioned it to Kutch and Wil and they thought it’d be really Frank Sinatra-esque.

Never forget what got you there. The best thing ever is when some guy in his 50s taps me on the shoulder and says, ”I just want to let you know I hate my job, I hate my wife, and I come home and I watch reruns of your show and it’s the only half hour of the day when I laugh and I forget how miserable life is.” And I’m like, ”Geez, I’m sorry you’re miserable, but thank you for the compliment.”