Steven Wright to ‘keep on trucking’ at the Rialto

by MICHEAL ROMERO

It’s not easy to take the mundane thoughts of everyday life to craft two Grammy nominated comedy albums with 20 years between each release, but Academy Award winner Steven Wright found a way and made it look easy. In Wright’s 1985 landmark album, “I Have A Pony,” he gave the world his abstract views in a deadpan delivery that mesmerized and inspired generations to come. Every joke he tells aims for the money shot and every shot lands.

The Aztec Press had the chance to delve into the comedian’s routine and his plans for the future of his career 20 years in the making.

I saw a clip of you on Conan discussing Twitter, and it made me think about how your humor has not only influenced a generation of comics like Zach Galifianakis and Demetri Martin, but just any of the humor you can find on the internet. Have you noticed the influence? 

Yeah I started noticing about 15 years ago. I was seeing comedians doing my type of speech and joke. But when I was doing it, I was just doing it. I wasn’t thinking some teenager was watching who would grow up to be a comedian.

Do things just pop into your head and then you write them down or do you dedicate an amount of time to cook things up?

In the first six months when I started, I would sit down to write more “traditional material” but then I would see a sign or a word and a joke just comes. Noticing, it’s all based on noticing.

You were a guest star and a consulting producer on “Louie” last season. Will there more of that in the future? 

I think there will be more “Louie” in the future. He’s brilliant. He’s an absolute brilliant mind.

Back to style and influence, I noticed in your first album, “I Have a Pony,” that sometimes you’d deliver the punch line and the audience would laugh for a second and then start applause because the joke is so clever that they almost have to immediately commend you for thinking about something in such a way. How are you able to blend the more abstract jokes with the insanely witty?

I would just write whatever came to mind. Doing standup is half writing and half performing. I was writing what I thought was funny. I was saying what I thought was funny. You can’t just go in any order, you have to find a sequence where it works the best. It’s like a puzzle. Thinking back, I wasn’t thinking if they would laugh, this is just how I think. This is naturally how I talk.

Is your focus right now only touring, or are there any other projects in the works? I have to say I’d love to see you as the off-beat uncle on a sitcom or something similar.

Right now just “Louie” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” As for a sitcom, I would do it depending on what it is.

I know it was really easy for me to get into your routine, and people seem really receptive to your appearances on more recent late night talk shows. Did you think that your humor would be able to transcend generations?

[The talk show hosts] see people and don’t know I’ve influenced them. The audience doesn’t care who it is, they just laugh at what’s funny.

Some of the topics in your acts have changed the way I will look at things forever, in particular the “Car-carrier trailer” joke. I can’t imagine seeing one of those from now on and not picturing a bunch of hitchhikers in each one of the individual cars. 

Oh yeah (laughs), well that story actually came from a guy I was working with over a summer one year. When I was out of college, I was painting dorms with these guys in the college I had just attended, and painting can take so long, so we’d listen to the radio and just talk. So one was telling me that he was hitchhiking  and got picked up by one of those trucks and was riding in the cab with the driver. When they stopped at a diner, the driver met a lady, and the driver told the guy to get in one of the cars. Because I was painting during the day and going to the open mic at night, I said “Hey, I’m going to use that in my act. That’s really funny.”

What can the audience expect on Nov. 13 at the Rialto Theatre?

I’ll be telling one liners. I’ll tell bizarre stories, very surreal, very abstract.

You’ll be 60-years-old in December, is there any sort of plan from there or do you not think about age as much? Sixty isn’t old these days, but it’s a milestone.

It is a milestone. It’s weird because in your mind you’re 25 and the year just keeps changing. But I feel very lucky. I can’t believe that I have been able to do this for so long. I love performing.

You can catch Wright perform at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E Congress St., on Nov. 13, with tickets ranging from $29 to $41. Tickets can be purchased by calling 740-1000 for the Rialto box office or by visiting rialtotheatre.com.

Photo courtesy of Jorge Rios Steven Wright on stage during a recent standup performance.

Photo courtesy of Jorge Rios
Steven Wright on stage during a recent standup performance.

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