Steve Wright is a total legend in world stand up comedy. If you ask Steve about his life legacy he would say, “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 the real story is a little more complex.
Steve Wright: American Comedian
In everyone else’s eyes Steve Wright is an Academy Award-winning American stand-up comedian known for his slow, deadpan delivery that you might expect to hear if Bob Newheart developed a Valium addiction. Wright’s humor is often characterized by irony and deeply philosophical themes. He almost always delivers his comedy in the form of a nonstop barrage of one-liners. Ironically, rumor has it that Wright began using that deadpan delivery so it would feel less embarrassing if nobody laughed. That delivery soon became an integral part of his style and made his well-written material even funnier.
Wright was born December 6th, 1955 in New York City. He was one of son of an electronics executive and Dolly Wright. Raised in Burlington MA. Wright would attend Emerson College with Dennis Leary. He knew what he wanted to do comedy at a young age. After attending an open mike audition in Cambridge he soon became a regular performer at Ding Ho’s Comedy Club and Chinese Restaurant, and his eyes were set squarely on the Tonight Show.
“When I was 14, I started watching The Tonight Show and I just loved it. I just got it in my head that I wanted to be one of those people that would go on that show” – Steve Wright.
In August of 1982, that Wright got his chance. Carson enjoyed Wright’s performance so much that he invited Wright back the very next week. “It was so surreal. I just couldn’t believe he was standing there. I barely knew what he was saying. He could’ve been saying, After the show, we’re gonna ax murder you and bury you in five different states, and I would have said, Thank you, sir. OK. Fine”.
Saturday Night Live
Wright was soon opening for Saturday Night Live, performing on Late Night with David Letterman, and making numerous trips back to The Tonight Show. About the same time Wright noticed jokes circulating on the Internet that were attributed to him. About these jokes, Wright has stated, “I saw one list, and I didn’t write any of it. What’s disturbing is that with a few of these jokes, and I wish I had thought of them. But with a giant amount of them, I’m embarrassed that people think I thought I did”.
Wright released a comedy album in 1985 entitled I Have a Pony. The album was nominated for a Grammy. It even features Wright’s musical talents as he plays guitar and sings an ode to his ex with that same deadpan delivery, only now, showcased in song. In 1988, Steven taped in his first HBO Special, On Location: Steven Wright. He was awarded an Oscar in 1989 for Best Short Live-Action Film for his independent film The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, which he starred Wright as Dennis Jennings, a victim low self-esteem wandering through the rat race of life in New York City. Wright also had cameos in numerous films. Most recently, he starred in Coffee and Cigarettes. Other films that Wright has played in include Desperately Seeking Susan, So I Married An Axe Murderer, Natural Born Killers and Babe 2: Pig in the City.
Steve Wright: Recordings
In 1990 Wright taped his second comedy special Wicker Chairs and Gravity. The special included stand-up from The Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto and a short film shot on location in New York. Two years later, Wright had a recurring role as film editor Warren Mermelman on the NBC sitcom Mad About You. He was offered other sitcom rolls but Wright usually passed them up. He felt his brand of comedy just wouldn’t translate for most sitcom scripts.
Krusty’s Comeback Special
However, that didn’t stop him from making a guest appearance as himself on the Simpsons in an episode entitled the last Temptation of Krusty that featured numerous other stand-up comics that would be appearing in Krusty’s Comeback special including: Jay Leno, Janeane Garofalo and Bruce Baum. In 2005, Wright also joined numerous other stand-up comedy peers in the documentary the Aristocrats that followed today’s comedians as they practice stand-up by telling each other their twist dirtiest joke ever told.
Top 50 Comedy Acts Ever
In a 2005 poll, Wright was voted one of the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians. He was named #23 on Comedy Central’s list of the top 100 stand-up comics of all time. And, Wright was ranked #34 by a 2007 British TV documentary entitled The 100 Greatest Stand Ups. In 2006, Wright stared in his third HBO special: Steven Wright When Leaves Blow Away.
Book Steve Wright Today
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.
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