Steven Wright

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Steven Wright
Steven Wright 1994.jpg
Wright in 1994
Birth nameSteven Alexander Wright
Born (1955-12-06) December 6, 1955 (age 62)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
MediumStand-up, film, television
NationalityAmerican
Years active1978–present
Genressurreal humor, one-liners, deadpan, wit/word play, observational comedy, Musical comedy, Anti-humor

Steven Alexander Wright (born December 6, 1955) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and 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.[3]

Wright was ranked as the 15th Greatest Comedian by Rolling Stone in a list of the 50 Greatest Stand-up Comics.[4] His accolades include the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for writing and producing the short film The Appointments of Dennis Jennings (1988)[5] and two Primetime Emmy Awards nominations as a producer of Louie (2010–15).[6]

Early life and career[edit]

Wright was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and grew up in Burlington, Massachusetts,[7][8] one of four children of Lucille "Dolly" (née Lomano) and Alexander K. Wright.[7][9][10] He was raised as a Roman Catholic.[11] His mother was Italian American and his father was of Scottish descent.[12] 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.[7]

Wright attended Middlesex Community College in Bedford, Massachusetts for two years to earn his associate's degree, then continued his education at Emerson College.[13] He graduated from Emerson in 1978[13] and began performing stand-up comedy the following year[7][14] at the Comedy Connection in Boston.[7][13] Wright cites comic George Carlin and director Woody Allen as comedic influences.[15]

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,[16][17] at 11 Springfield Street,[18][19] in Cambridge's Inman Square,[20] a venue Wright described as "half Chinese restaurant and half comedy club.[21] It was a pretty weird place."[7] 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.[15] 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.[20]

Stand-up success[edit]

Wright's 1985 comedy album, entitled 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 success of this album landed him an HBO special, in the On Location: series, taped at Wolfgang's in San Francisco, as a live performance, for A Steven Wright Special.[22] 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. 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.[7]

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."[23]

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."[7]

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.[citation needed] 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 lost to The Distant Future by Flight of the Conchords.

Awards and honors[edit]

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.[24] He received two Emmy nominations as part of the producing team of Louie, first in 2014 and again in 2015.[25]

On December 15, 2008, Wright became the first inductee to the Boston Comedy Hall of Fame.[17][26]

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.[27]

Other interests[edit]

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.[28][29] Wright also has an interest in painting.[30]

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.[31][32]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

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[33] Mel (voice)

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1979 WKRP in Cincinnati Security Officer Episode: "Fish Story"
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;[34]
also writer and producer
1992 Bob Noah the Cab Driver Episode: "Mad Dog on 34th Street"
1993 Mad About You Warren Mermelman 5 episodes
1993–98 The Larry Sanders Show Himself 3 episodes
1995–97 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"
1998–99 Hercules Bootes (voice) 2 episodes
1999 Becker Boyd Crossman Episode: "Larry Spoke"
Space Ghost Coast to Coast Himself (voice) 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"
2011–15 Louie Comic Strip MC / Himself Actor: 2 episodes, story by: "The Road: Part 2",
producer: 8 episodes
2015 The Flaming C[35] R.A.N.D.Y. (voice) 2 episodes
2016 Horace and Pete[36] Leon Web series

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Steven Wright Interview". The Comedy Couch. April 10, 2002. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  2. ^ Lapka, Larry (December 6, 1955). "Steven Wright". AllMusic. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  3. ^ Leatherman, Benjamin (8 May 2012). "Comedian Steven Wright on His Deadpan Style, Getting Inspired By Salvador Dali, Working With Quentin Tarantino, and More". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  4. ^ Love, Matthew (14 February 2017). "50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time". RollingStone.com. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  5. ^ "The Appointments of Dennis Jennings". AASpeechesDB.Oscars.org. AMPAS. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Steven Wright". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Frank Lovece (May 28, 2009). "Comedian Steven Wright plays Westbury Sunday". Newsday. Archived from the original on May 31, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  8. ^ Gail Waterhouse (March 3, 2010). "a famous former Burlington resident". The Boston Globe.
  9. ^ "Obituary". Sullivanfuneralhome.net. January 9, 2008. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ "Latest". Steven Wright. May 17, 2002. Archived from the original on April 18, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  12. ^ Dana, Rebecca (June 5, 2009). "Steven Wright on Letterman, Rembrandt and Being Short". Speakeasy. Retrieved February 22, 2010.
  13. ^ a b c 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
  14. ^ Young, Chris. "Behind a new album, comedian Steven Wright plays Pittsburgh for the first time in five years", Pittsburgh City Paper, October 11, 2007
  15. ^ a b 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
  16. ^ "In Memory of Barry Crimmins". sevenstories.com. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  17. ^ a b Turbovsky, Rob. "Steven Wright inducted into Hall, a city’s comedy history celebrated" Archived April 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., Punchline Magazine, December 22, 2008
  18. ^ "The Ding Ho Reunion - 25 Years of the Best of Boston Comedy". TheaterMania. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  19. ^ "Performance Spaces in Cambridge". cambridgehistory.org. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  20. ^ a b Baltrusis, Sam. "Steven Wright headlines Ding Ho reunion benefit" Archived September 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., LoadedGunBoston.com, April 8, 2008
  21. ^ "Interview: Steven Wright, Stand-Up Comedian - Dead-Frog - A Comedy Blog". October 29, 2006. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  22. ^ O'Connor, John J. (16 September 1985). "STEVEN WRIGHT, COMIC, 'ON LOCATION'". nytimes.com. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
  23. ^ Tasha Robinson, "Interview: Steven Wright," The A.V. Club, January 29, 2003.
  24. ^ Nathan Rabin, "Interview: Steven Wright," The A.V. Club, November 9, 2006.
  25. ^ "Steven Wright – Television Academy".
  26. ^ 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
  27. ^ Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of all Time, Everything2.com
  28. ^ "Music". Steven Wright. Archived from the original on July 3, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  29. ^ Mark Wuerthner on IMDb
  30. ^ "Music & Paintings". Steven Wright. Archived from the original on June 18, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  31. ^ "Steven on the Late Late Show". Vids.myspace.com. Archived from the original on August 5, 2010. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  32. ^ "The Late Late Show – Steven Wright Drops By". Web.archive.org. July 23, 2011. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  33. ^ Goldberg, Matt (December 20, 2016). "'The Emoji Movie' Trailer Literally Gets Promoted by "Meh"". Collider. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  34. ^ "The History". Steven Wright. Archived from the original on June 28, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  35. ^ "(I'm From) Western Mass". Dr. Westchesterson. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  36. ^ 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.

External links[edit]