Comedy has had quite the history of who’s funny now and why. Since humor can be based on observations, a lot of it is contextual of what is directly happening in society. In the 1940s, comedians were making jokes about their mother-in-laws. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, comedians were making quips about civil rights. Many comedians have made careers from creating characters tied to specific times and places. This Game Changer, however, stands apart. His use of language and observations have stood the test of time. Comedy Central even listed this comic as number 23 of 100 Greatest Stand-up Comics. This Game Changer is Steven Wright.
At the age of 15, Wright became obsessed with comedy. He got his fix from watching Johnny Carson. By the age of 23, he decided to try stand-up at the the Boston Comedy Connection. In 1982, he was discovered while performing at Ding Ho’s, half a Chinese restaurant-half a comedy club. This led to what must have been a childhood dream, time on The Tonight Show. The frizzy haired comedian was such a success that less than a week later, Carson asked him back. In 1985, he released the Grammy nominated album, I Have a Pony. Following this, HBO filmed a Steven Wright Special.
Due to great success, Wright has transitioned out of comedy clubs. He now primarily performs for theatre crowds. He has filmed two more specials. His 2006 Comedy Central special, When the Leaves Blow Away, was turned into the audio album, I Still Have a Pony. It earned him another Grammy nomination. Wright is a low-energy, joke machine. He belts out one-liner after one-liner. His style relies on the strength of the writing, “If you shoot a mime, should you use a silencer?” He’s always deadpan, sometimes pacing the stage. Absurdity plays huge into his act. In a bit about meeting his girlfriend, he quips, “She was shopping at Macy’s, and I was putting Slinkies on the escalators.” Occasionally, he plays a song or tells a story, but he never invites a segue bit or crowd work into his act. His sets appear to be obscure yet true observations, “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” Wright meticulously creates a lineup filled with randomness. Each punchline is funny and able to stand alone.
He has also dabbled in TV and film. In 1989, Wright won an Oscar, Best Live-Action Short, for The Appointments of Dennis Jennings. He co-wrote, produced, and starred in it. He has worked with some of the best in and outside of comedy. He was the voice of the DJ in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. He had a recurring role on Mad About You. He appeared in the Jim Jarmusch film, Coffee & Cigarettes. He was The Man on the Couch in Half Baked. Recently, he played Leon on Louis Ck’s Horace and Pete. His film career spans between many notable works.
Wright has remained relevant in comedy throughout his 30 plus year career. Between his signature writing and delivery, he has proven to be a classic and contemporary at the same time. Steven Wright is a Game Changer.