Wright at Tufts University, 1994
|Birth name||Steven Alexander Wright|
December 6, 1955 |
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
|Medium||stand-up, film, television|
|Genres||surreal humor, one-liners, deadpan, wit/word play, observational comedy, Musical comedy, Anti-humor|
|Influences||Woody Allen, George Carlin, Bob Newhart|
Steven Alexander Wright (born December 6, 1955) is an American comedian, actor, writer, and an Oscar-winning film producer. He is known for his distinctly lethargic voice and slow, deadpan delivery of ironic, philosophical and sometimes nonsensical jokes, paraprosdokians, non sequiturs, anti-humor, and one-liners with contrived situations.
Early life and career
Wright was born at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and grew up in Burlington, Massachusetts, one of four children of Lucille "Dolly" (née Lomano) and Alexander K. Wright. He was raised as a Roman Catholic. His mother was Italian American and his father was of Scottish descent. Wright's father worked as an electronics technician who "tested a lot of stuff" for NASA (in the Apollo spacecraft program), and when that program ended he worked as a truck driver.
Wright attended Middlesex Community College in Bedford, Massachusetts for two years to earn his associate's degree before continuing his baccalaureate education at Emerson College. He graduated from Emerson in 1978 and the next year he began performing stand-up comedy in 1979 at the Comedy Connection in Boston. Wright cites comic George Carlin and director Woody Allen as comedic influences.
In 1982 executive producer of The Tonight Show Peter Lassally saw Wright performing on a bill with other local comics at the Ding Ho comedy club, in Cambridge's Inman Square, a venue Wright described as "half Chinese restaurant and half comedy club. It was a pretty weird place." Lassally booked Wright on NBC's The Tonight Show, where the comic so impressed host Johnny Carson and the studio audience that less than a week later Wright was invited to appear on the show again. 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 suffering from leukemia.
Wright's 1985 comedy album was entitled I Have a Pony. It was released on Warner Bros. Records, received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. The success of this album landed him an HBO special which he recorded as a live college concert performance, A Steven Wright Special. By then Wright had firmly developed a new brand of obscure, laid-back performing and was rapidly building a cult-like following of hip, savvy fans and an onstage persona characterized by an aura of obscurity, with his penchant for non-sequiturs and subdued, slowly-paced delivery style only adding to his mystique. His opening act for the HBO concert was fellow "Ding Ho" comedy alumnus Bill Sohonage, who claimed that Steven's ultra-casual, nearly catatonic demeanor was no act. "He walked into my dressing room, minutes before I was to take the stage, and asked if he could borrow a shirt, as his had a giant pizza stain. You would think it might be normal to be a little nervous going on a college stage in front of 23,000, let alone having HBO out there filming, but as I passed by his room while walking on-stage I saw him sound asleep and loudly snoring." The performance would become one of HBO's longest running and most requested comedy specials, and would propel him to great success on the college-arena concert circuit.
In 1989 he 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 same 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.
Numerous lists of jokes attributed to Wright circulate on the Internet, sometimes of dubious origin. Wright has stated, "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."
After his 1990 comedy special Wicker Chairs and Gravity, Wright continued to do stand-up performances, but he was largely absent from television, doing only occasional 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."
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. Its DVD was released April 23, 2007. 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, but The Distant Future by Flight of the Conchords won that award.
Awards and honors
Steven 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. He received two Emmy nominations as part of the producing team of Louie, first in 2014 and again in 2015.
In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted amongst 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.
While not well known for works outside of the comedy realm, Steven Wright is also a musician and has also recorded several non-comedy songs with his friend and occasional actor Mark Wuerthner. Wright also has an interest in painting.
Beginning in 2008, Steven Wright occasionally appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson as a visiting celebrity, dropping by the show to help with the fan-mail segment. He joined a small cadre of Hollywood comedy celebrities who supported the show.
- Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) as Larry Stillman D.D.S.
- The Appointments of Dennis Jennings (1988) (short film) (Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film)
- Stars and Bars (1988) as Pruitt
- Wicker Chairs and Gravity, HBO Stand-up Special (1991)
- Reservoir Dogs (1992) (voice only) as K-Billy DJ
- So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993) as Pilot
- Speechless (1994) as Eddie
- Mad About You as Paul Buchman's film assistant
- Natural Born Killers (1994) as Dr. Emil Reingold
- The Swan Princess (1994) as Speed (speaking voice)
- Mixed Nuts (1994) as Suicidal man at pay phone
- The Larry Sanders Show (1994) as himself
- Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist (1995) as himself
- Canadian Bacon (1995) as Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer
- Half Baked (1998) as The Guy on the Couch (uncredited)
- Babe: Pig in the City (1998) as Bob (voice)
- Space Ghost Coast to Coast (1999) as himself
- One Soldier (1999) (short film)
- The Muse (1999)
- Loser (2000) as Sleazy Man in Bar
- Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) as Steven
- The Aristocrats (2005) as himself
- When Stand Up Stood Out (2005) as himself
- Son of the Mask (2005) as The Boss
- Louie (2011) as himself
- (I'm From) Western Mass (2012) [music video] as Dr. Westchesterson
- I Have a Pony, Warner Bros. Records CD (1985)
- A Steven Wright Special, HBO DVD (1985)
- The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, DVD (1989)
- One Soldier, DVD (1999)
- When the Leaves Blow Away, DVD (2006)
- I Still Have a Pony, Comedy Central Records CD (2007)
- "Steven Wright Interview". The Comedy Couch. April 10, 2002. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- Lapka, Larry (December 6, 1955). "Steven Wright". AllMusic. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- Frank Lovece (May 28, 2009). "Comedian Steven Wright plays Westbury Sunday". Newsday. Archived from the original on May 31, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
- Gail Waterhouse (March 3, 2010). "a famous former Burlington resident". The Boston Globe.
- "Obituary". Sullivanfuneralhome.net. January 9, 2008. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- "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.
- "Latest". Steven Wright. May 17, 2002. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- Dana, Rebecca (June 5, 2009). "Steven Wright on Letterman, Rembrandt and Being Short". Speakeasy. Retrieved February 22, 2010.
- Crane, Joyce Pellino. "Laugh Track: For more than five decades, Emerson College has been putting comics on the road to success," The Boston Globe, October 7, 2007
- Young, Chris. "Behind a new album, comedian Steven Wright plays Pittsburgh for the first time in five years", Pittsburgh City Paper, October 11, 2007
- Keepnews, Peter. "A Strange Career Takes an Odd Turn," The New York Times, February 10, 2008, Section AR; Column 0; Arts and Leisure Desk; Television; Pg. 11
- Turbovsky, Rob. "Steven Wright inducted into Hall, a city’s comedy history celebrated", Punchline Magazine, December 22, 2008
- Baltrusis, Sam. "Steven Wright headlines Ding Ho reunion benefit", LoadedGunBoston.com, April 8, 2008
- Tasha Robinson, "Interview: Steven Wright," The A.V. Club, January 29, 2003.
- Nathan Rabin, "Interview: Steven Wright," The A.V. Club, November 9, 2006.
- Miller, Jay, N. "The Wright stuff; Boston comedian is first inductee into hall of fame", The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Massachusetts), December 15, 2008, Features; pg. 23
- Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of all Time, Everything2.com
- "Music". Steven Wright. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- Mark Wuerthner at the Internet Movie Database
- "Music & Paintings". Steven Wright. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- "Steven on the Late Late Show". Vids.myspace.com. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- "The Late Late Show – Steven Wright Drops By". Web.archive.org. July 23, 2011. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- "The History". Steven Wright. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- "(I'm From) Western Mass". Dr. Westchesterson. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Steven Wright|
- Official website
- Steven Wright at the Internet Movie Database
- Wright-House.com: Jokes attributed to Steven Wright, with actual authors identified
- Dead-Frog.com: Video of Steven Wright from When the Leaves Blow Away
- Interview: Steven Wright Riverfront Times. October 2008.