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Steven Wright

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Steven Wright
Wright in 1994
Birth nameSteven Alexander Wright
Born (1955-12-06) December 6, 1955 (age 68)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
  • Stand-up
  • film
  • television
Years active1978–present

Steven Alexander Wright (born December 6, 1955) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and film producer. He is known for his distinctive lethargic voice and slow, deadpan delivery of ironic, philosophical and sometimes nonsensical jokes, paraprosdokians, non sequiturs, anti-humor, and one-liners with contrived situations.[1]

Wright was ranked as the 15th Greatest Comedian by Rolling Stone in its 2017 list of the 50 Greatest Stand-up Comics.[2] His accolades include the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for starring in, writing, and producing the short film The Appointments of Dennis Jennings (1988)[3] and two Primetime Emmy Awards nominations as a producer of Louie (2010–2015).[4] He had a supporting role as Leon in the Peabody Award–winning tragicomedy web series Horace and Pete.

Early life, family and education[edit]

Wright was born at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and grew up in Burlington, Massachusetts,[5][6] one of four children of Lucille "Dolly" (née Lomano) and Alexander K. Wright.[5][7][8] He was raised Catholic.[9] His mother was Italian American, and his father of Scottish descent.[10] Wright's father worked as an electronics technician who "tested a lot of stuff" for NASA during the Apollo spacecraft program. When that program ended, he worked as a truck driver.[5]

Wright attended Middlesex Community College in Bedford, Massachusetts, for two years to earn his associate degree, then continued his education at Emerson College.[11] He graduated from Emerson in 1978.[11]


Wright began performing stand-up comedy in 1979[5][12] at the Comedy Connection in Boston.[5][11][13] Wright cites stand-up comic George Carlin and director and former stand-up comic Woody Allen as comedic influences.[14] In 1982, Peter Lassally, executive producer of NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, saw Wright performing on a bill with other local comics at the Ding Ho comedy club in Cambridge, a venue Wright described as "half Chinese restaurant and half comedy club. It was a pretty weird place."[5] Lassally booked Wright on The Tonight Show, and Wright so impressed host Johnny Carson and the studio audience that less than a week later he was invited to appear on the show again.[14]

Stand-up success[edit]

Wright's 1985 comedy album I Have a Pony was released on Warner Bros. Records, received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. The album's success landed him an HBO special, in the On Location: series, taped at Wolfgang's in San Francisco. It was broadcast as A Steven Wright Special.[15]

By then Wright had firmly developed a new brand of obscure, laid-back performing and was rapidly building a cultlike following and an onstage persona characterized by an aura of obscurity, with his penchant for non sequiturs and impassive, slow delivery adding to his mystique. The performance became one of HBO's longest-running and most requested comedy specials and propelled him to great success on the college-arena concert circuit.[citation needed]

Continued success beyond stand-up[edit]

In 1989, Wright and fellow producer Dean Parisot won an Academy Award for their 30-minute short film The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, directed by Parisot, written by Mike Armstrong and Wright, and starring Wright and Rowan Atkinson. Upon accepting the Oscar, Wright said, "We're really glad that we cut out the other sixty minutes." In 1992, Wright had a recurring role on the television sitcom Mad About You. He also supplied the voice of the radio DJ in writer-director Quentin Tarantino's film Reservoir Dogs that year. "Dean Parisot's wife Sally Menke is Quentin Tarantino's [film] editor, so when she was editing the movie and it was getting down toward the end where they didn't have the radio DJ yet, she thought of me and told Quentin and he liked the idea," Wright explained in 2009.[5]

In 1995, Wright provided voiceover work for TBS's Disaster Area cartoon block.[16]

Numerous lists of jokes attributed to Wright circulate on the Internet, sometimes of dubious origin. Wright has said, "Someone showed me a site, and half of it that said I wrote it, I didn't write. Recently, I saw one, and I didn't write any of it. What's disturbing is that with a few of these jokes, I wish I had thought of them. A giant amount of them, I'm embarrassed that people think I thought of them because some are really bad."[17]

After his 1990 comedy special Wicker Chairs and Gravity, Wright continued to do stand-up performances, but these were largely absent from television, and he only occasional made guest spots on late-night talk shows. In 1999, he wrote and directed the 30-minute short One Soldier, saying it's "about a soldier who was in the Civil War, right after the war, with all these existentialist thoughts and wondering if there is a God and all that stuff."[5]

In May 2000, Wright and other Ding Ho alumni, including Lenny Clarke, Barry Crimmins, Steve Sweeney, Bill Sohonage and Jimmy Tingle, appeared at a reunion benefit for comic Bob Lazarus, who was diagnosed with leukemia.[18]

In 2006, Wright produced his first stand-up special in 16 years, Steven Wright: When the Leaves Blow Away, originally aired on Comedy Central on October 21, 2006. On September 25, 2007, Wright released his second album, I Still Have a Pony, a CD release of the material from When The Leaves Blow Away. It was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album.[citation needed]

Beginning in 2008, Wright occasionally appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson as a visiting celebrity, often dropping by to help with the fan-mail segment. He joined a small cadre of Hollywood comedy celebrities who supported the show.[19][20]

Awards and honors[edit]

Wright was awarded an Oscar in 1989 for Best Short Live-Action Film for The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, which he co-wrote (with Michael Armstrong) and starred in.[21] He received two Emmy nominations as part of the producing team of Louie, first in 2014 and again in 2015.[22]

On December 15, 2008, Wright became the first inductee to the Boston Comedy Hall of Fame.[23][24]

In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted among the top 50 comedy acts by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. He was named No. 23 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest stand-up comics.[25]

Other interests[edit]

Wright is a musician and has recorded several non-comedy songs with his friend and occasional actor Mark Wuerthner.[26][27] He also has an interest in painting.[28]



Year Title Role Notes
1979 The Last Word Man in Crowd
1985 Desperately Seeking Susan Larry Stillman D.D.S.
1986 Coffee and Cigarettes Steven Short film; also writer
1988 The Appointments of Dennis Jennings Dennis Jennings Also writer and producer
Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film
Stars and Bars Pruitt
1990 Men of Respect Sterling
1992 Reservoir Dogs K-Billy DJ (voice)
1993 So I Married an Axe Murderer Pilot
1994 The Swan Princess Speed (voice)
Natural Born Killers Dr. Emil Reingold
Speechless Eddie
Mixed Nuts Man at Pay Phone
1995 For Better or Worse Cabbie
Canadian Bacon Niagara Mountie
1998 Half Baked The Guy on the Couch Uncredited
Babe: Pig in the City Bob (voice)
1999 Goatman
1999 One Soldier Soldier Short; director, writer, producer
The Muse Stan Spielberg
2000 Loser Panty Hose Customer
2003 Coffee and Cigarettes Steven Segment: "Strange to Meet You"
2005 Son of the Mask Daniel Moss
The Aristocrats Himself
When Stand Up Stood Out Himself
2017 The Emoji Movie[29] Mel (voice)


Year Title Role Notes
1979 WKRP in Cincinnati Security Officer Episode: "Fish Story"
1980 Lenny Clarke's Late Show[30] Various Series regular
1985 A Steven Wright Special Himself Stand-up special; also writer
1987 Trying Times Dwight Harper Episode: "Get a Job"
1991 Wicker Chairs and Gravity Himself HBO stand-up special;[31]
also writer and producer
1992 Bob Noah the Cab Driver Episode: "Mad Dog on 34th Street"
1993 Mad About You Warren Mermelman 5 episodes
1993–1998 The Larry Sanders Show Himself 3 episodes
1995–1997 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Steven (voice) 2 episodes
1997 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Bogeyman (voice) Episode: "Mother Goose"
Almost Perfect Ray Whitestone Episode: "Dating for Ratings"
1998 The Simpsons Himself (voice) Episode: "The Last Temptation of Krust"
1998–1999 Hercules Bootes (voice) 2 episodes
1999 Becker Boyd Crossman Episode: "Larry Spoke"
Space Ghost Coast to Coast Himself Episode: "Snatch"
2001 The Downer Channel Walter Episode: "#1.2"
Codename: Kids Next Door Disease Hotline (voice) Pilot episode
2006 When the Leaves Blow Away Himself Comedy Central stand-up special;
also writer and executive producer
2011 Aqua Teen Hunger Force Danny (voice) Episode: "Allen Part One"
2011–2015 Louie Comic Strip MC / Himself Actor: 2 episodes, story by: "The Road: Part 2",
producer: 8 episodes
2015 The Flaming C[32] R.A.N.D.Y. (voice) 2 episodes
2016 Horace and Pete[33] Leon Web series



Year Title Label Formats Notes
1985 I Have a Pony Warner Bros. Records LP/cassette, CD (2005), CD/download (2009) Deluxe Anniversary Edition CD reissued in 2009 with A Steven Wright Special DVD[34]
2007 I Still Have a Pony Comedy Central Records CD/download Soundtrack of the When the Leaves Blow Away special


Year Title Studio Formats
1985 A Steven Wright Special HBO/Warner Bros. Records Broadcast, DVD (2009)
1990 Wicker Chairs and Gravity HBO Broadcast
2006 When the Leaves Blow Away Comedy Central/Image Entertainment Broadcast, DVD (2007), streaming


Year Title Label Notes
1992 Reservoir Dogs: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack MCA Records 6 tracks of DJ dialogue


  • Wright, Steven (May 16, 2023). Harold: A Novel. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-6680-2269-6. OCLC 1378793643.


  1. ^ Leatherman, Benjamin (May 8, 2012). "Comedian Steven Wright on His Deadpan Style, Getting Inspired By Salvador Dali, Working With Quentin Tarantino, and More". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  2. ^ Love, Matthew (February 14, 2017). "50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  3. ^ "The Appointments of Dennis Jennings". Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  4. ^ "Steven Wright". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Lovece, Frank (May 28, 2009). "Comedian Steven Wright plays Westbury Sunday". Newsday. Melville, NY. Archived from the original on May 31, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  6. ^ Waterhouse, Gail (March 3, 2010). "A Famous Former Burlington Resident". The Boston Globe.
  7. ^ "Obituary". sullivanfuneralhome.net. Sullivan Funeral Home. January 9, 2008. Archived from the original on December 17, 2013. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  8. ^ "Cover Story; The (sur)real Steven Wright; He laughs easily, works hard for material". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. August 1, 1987. Retrieved February 22, 2010.
  9. ^ "Latest". StevenWright.com. May 17, 2002. Archived from the original on April 18, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  10. ^ Dana, Rebecca (June 5, 2009). "Steven Wright on Letterman, Rembrandt and Being Short". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 22, 2010.
  11. ^ a b c Crane, Joyce Pellino (October 7, 2007). "Laugh Track: For more than five decades, Emerson College has been putting comics on the road to success". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  12. ^ Young, Chris (October 11, 2007). "Behind a new album, comedian Steven Wright plays Pittsburgh for the first time in five years". Pittsburgh City Paper. Archived August 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Leader, Jody (November 12, 1989). "Comedy fans meet Mr. Wright". Star-News. Wilmington, North Carolina. Los Angeles Daily News. p. 1H. Retrieved November 3, 2021. His first gig was at Boston's Comedy Connection during open-mike night. 'I [Wright] had about two minutes of material written, and I just stood there, a nervous wreck.'
  14. ^ a b Keepnews, Peter (February 10, 2008). "A Strange Career Takes an Odd Turn". The New York Times. p. AR28.
  15. ^ O'Connor, John J. (September 16, 1985). "Steven Wright, Comic, 'On Location'". The New York Times. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  16. ^ "TBS - Disaster Area Bumper - 1995". TBS. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021 – via YouTube.
  17. ^ Wright, Steven (January 29, 2003). "Interview: Steven Wright". The A.V. Club (Interview). Interviewed by Tasha Robinson.
  18. ^ Baltrusis, Sam (April 8, 2008). "Steven Wright headlines Ding Ho reunion benefit" Archived September 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. LoadedGunBoston.com; accessed April 5, 2022.
  19. ^ "Steven on the Late Late Show". Vids.myspace.com. Archived from the original on August 5, 2010. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  20. ^ "The Late Late Show – Steven Wright Drops By". July 23, 2011. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved June 12, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  21. ^ Nathan Rabin, "Interview: Steven Wright," The A.V. Club, November 9, 2006.
  22. ^ "Steven Wright". Television Academy.
  23. ^ Turbovsky, Rob (December 22, 2008). "Steven Wright inducted into Hall, a city's comedy history celebrated". Punchline Magazine. Archived from the original on April 28, 2009.
  24. ^ Miller, Jay, N. (December 15, 2008). "The Wright stuff; Boston comedian is the first inductee into the hall of fame". The Patriot Ledger. (Quincy, Massachusetts), Features; pg. 23.
  25. ^ Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of all Time, Everything2.com
  26. ^ "Music". Steven Wright. Archived from the original on July 3, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  27. ^ Mark Wuerthner at IMDb
  28. ^ "Music & Paintings". Steven Wright. Archived from the original on June 18, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  29. ^ Goldberg, Matt (December 20, 2016). "'The Emoji Movie' Trailer Literally Gets Promoted by "Meh"". Collider. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  30. ^ Carroll, Janis. "Comedian Lenny Clark to return to the Pitman's stage". The Laconia Daily Sun. Retrieved April 29, 2022.
  31. ^ "The History". Steven Wright. Archived from the original on June 28, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  32. ^ "(I'm From) Western Mass". Dr. Westchesterson. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  33. ^ Yakas, Ben (January 30, 2016). "Louis C.K. Releases Surprise New Dramatic Web Series Horace & Pete". Gothamist. Archived from the original on January 31, 2016. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  34. ^ "Steven Wright (2)". Discogs. Retrieved February 26, 2021.

External links[edit]