Award-winning comedian Steven Wright comes to Ann Arbor
For most regular, moderately funny folk — depending on where you situate yourself on the spectrum — everyday things are either tucked away as memories or simply seen and forgotten (perhaps for the more conscientious bunch out there, they are recorded in a diary). But for some, like clever-minded comedian Steven Wright, the day’s monotony presents a different kind of opportunity.
“Whenever anyone wakes up in the morning until they go to sleep at night, thousands of pieces of information go past them, and some of those pieces can be moved around into jokes,” Wright said. “I just get jokes from noticing things.”
Wright, who has been cracking people up on stage for over three decades, is most known for his signature deadpan, monotone delivery, which almost seems to border on indifference. The unexpectedness of a tightly packed punch line — in the midst of a blank face and lethargic demeanor with the added flair of a Boston accent — has kept the crowd on the edge of their seats through the years.
“I didn’t really think about it until someone wrote an article about me in the Boston paper after I’d been doing comedy for about two years,” Wright said about his well-known comic style. “That’s the first time I saw the word ‘monotone.’ No one ever said that to me personally in my whole life, then I read that, and it has just followed me my whole career.”
Being a comedian was something Wright had long aspired to be and continued to pursue as an undergraduate liberal arts student.
“It was my dream, it was my goal and my life to be a comedian,” he said. “So, a year after I graduated at college in Boston, a club opened up, and as soon as I knew it was there, I started going to the open mic nights.”
After three years performing at Ding Ho’s Comedy Club and Chinese Restaurant in Cambridge, Wright was booked for his first “Tonight Show” appearance. Producing such a roar from the audience, he was invited back the following week.
“It was surreal. Of all the things I’ve done in my career, that’s still my favorite," Wright said of his debut, "going on that show that first time.”
In addition to standup, Wright went on to star in multiple films and TV shows. He earned himself a Grammy nomination in 1985 for his debut album, I Have a Pony. The sequel, I Still Have a Pony, was also nominated in 2007. Since 2014, Wright has been a producer, director and guest star of the FX series, Louie, whom Wright describes as “brilliant.”
Despite his many detours from the stage, including doing the animated voice for the upcoming animated film, “Emoji,” standup remains Wright’s passion and forte.
“To be in a scene is good, but it doesn’t have that edge of danger,” Wright said. “You can do it again and again there’s no one really looking at you. But on stage, all that energy you get from the crowd makes it dangerous and exciting.”
Despite drifting askew from the spotlight of stardom, which Wright once occupied, he continues to act as a legacy and hall-of-famer for comedians and the public alike, making frequent appearances on the stage. For Wright’s performance this weekend, audiences can expect “eighty minutes of surrealism — a weird hour.”
Wright didn’t hesitate to impart some of his own career wisdom: “You never know what’s gonna happen — don’t be afraid and don’t stop yourself from at least attempting whatever thing comes into your head,” Wright shared. “If it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. At least you tried.”
Wright will bring this fearless attitude with his comedy to the stage this Saturday.