He’s no superstar, but there’s little doubt that Steven Wright is king of the deadpan, brain-tickling one-liner. Famous for brief, often surreal jokes along the line of: “After they make Styrofoam, what do they ship it in?” and “Yesterday I parked my car in a tow-away zone. When I came back the entire area was missing,” Wright is one part old school stand-up, one part Zen master, and he remains one of the best stand-up comics of our time.
As to Steven Wright’s biography, there’s not too much there besides a lot of great work. In fact, it’s tempting to simply quote Wright’s autobiography and leave it at that: “I was born. When I was 23 I started telling jokes... then I started going on television and doing films. That's still what I am doing. The end.” But there is a bit more. For example, we know that Steven was born in 1955 in Burlington, Massachusetts and that he confesses to being kind of a loner. He attended Emerson College, did odd jobs, and contemplated a career in radio. At some point (we’re guessing after his 23 birthday) he worked up the courage to get up on a stage and do his act for the first time.
According to Steven, about 50 percent of it got laughs, and a friend sagely advised that he should keep working and improve the other half. Steven took the advice to heart. Fortunately for him, the eighties were a kind of golden age of stand-up comedy and Steven was able to hone his material by working constantly at a number of Boston-area clubs. By 1982, he was good enough to nail the king of 1980s comedy bookings: two successful appearances on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.”
Still, it was another few years before Steven broke big. In 1985, he appeared several times on “Saturday Night Live,” recorded an early HBO comedy special, and released his own hit comedy album, I Have a Pony. He also had his first significant film role in the romantic comedy, “Desperately Seeking Susan.” In 1988, he co-wrote, co-produced and starred in “The Appointments of Dennis Jennings,” a short subject pairing him with fellow cult comedian Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean,” “Black Adder”). The film won an Oscar for best short subject. More roles followed and, between touring gigs, Steven appeared in “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Natural Born Killers,” “Mad About You,” “So I Married an Ax Murderer” and the immortal “Half Baked.” Steven’s unforgettable spoken word stylings also graced “Babe: Pig in the City,” an episode of “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist,” and, most famously, “Reservoir Dogs.”
The kind of talent who never really needs to do a comeback because he never actually leaves, Steve nevertheless staged something of a return in 2006 with his first comedy special in more than a decade and a half: “When the Leaves Blow Away.” He was hardly gone and definitely not forgotten. Steven remains one of the funniest people alive and, in his early 50s is a growing influence on a younger generation of off-center comedians, most notably Demetri Martin and the late Mitch Hedberg. He has also joined a select cadre of people so witty that they’re often credited with quips they’ve never actually made. That puts him in a class with Will Rogers, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain. Trust us, there is no greater guarantee of immortality.
Steven on the Web
An online database of Steven’s career.
News and Steven’s latest TV appearances
More about Steven and his surreal wit.
Photos and links to Steven’s movies, plus a detailed bio.
Steven’s official web site. Includes info on his new releases and upcoming tour dates, as well as comedy audio clips. Plus, there are several paintings by Steven, as well as audio of a couple of completely serious and straightforward contemporary country-folk songs written and, yes, sung by Steven. “You are Gone” is actually very good and, don’t worry, he doesn’t sing anything like he talks.
Onion A.V. Club
An interview with Steven, from November 2006.
Steven Wright Jokes
This claims to be the most comprehensive list of Wright’s jokes on the web. Also includes one-liners from other comics that have been attributed to Steven.
Steven on the Screen
We relish all of Steven’s film and TV roles – even if the movie or show isn’t so great, you know he’ll be interesting. However, his greatest onscreen appearance wasn’t onscreen at all. Of course, we speak of Steven’s contribution to “Reservoir Dogs” as the voice of K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend. With his extremely un-DJ like delivery, Steven is as much a character as the 11 actors, providing a much-needed comic counterpoint to some fairly grim moments. And his mispronunciation of the word “behemoth” as “be-hoy-muth” still makes us laugh out loud whenever we think about it.
Even as we write this, Steven is preparing for a tour starting in October of 2007 and has just released a new comedy CD. It’s a follow-up to his 1985 album, I Have a Pony. It’s title: I Still Have a Pony.
“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”
More on transportation:
“My uncle's an airline pilot. Kinda makes it difficult to hold the bottle though.”
“I have a map of the United States… actual size. It says, 'Scale: 1 mile = 1 mile.’”
On taking stock:
"Whenever I think about the past, it just brings back so many memories."
On literature and the universe:
“I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything.”