It is hard to believe, but there was a time, boys and girls, when we would get together with friends, hang out in bedrooms and dorm rooms, smoke pot, and listen to comedy albums: Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Firesign Theatre; it was a real thing back in my day.
Steven Wright‘s first comedy album I Have A Pony (1985) was a big hit and was nominated for the Grammy Award. The success of this album landed him an HBO special which he recorded as a live college concert performance, A Steven Wright Special (1986).
At the end of the 20th century, I was drawn to Wright’s brand of obscure, laid-back performing with an onstage persona characterized by an aura of obscurity, and a penchant for non-sequiturs. His subdued, slowly-paced delivery style only adding to his mystique.
His opening act for the HBO concert, Bill Sohonage, claimed that Wright’s catatonic demeanor was no act:
He walked into my dressing room, minutes before I was to take the stage, and asked if he could borrow a shirt, as his had a giant pizza stain. You would think it might be normal to be a little nervous going on a college stage in front of 23,000, let alone having HBO out there filming, but as I passed by his room while walking on-stage I saw him sound asleep and loudly snoring.
A Steven Wright Special remains HBO’s longest-running and most requested comedy special.
In 1989 he won an Academy Award for their 30-minute short film The Appointments Of Dennis Jennings, directed by Dean Parisot (Monk, Curb Your Enthusiasm), written by Wright, and starring Wright and Rowan Atkinson. Accepting the Oscar, Wright said:
We’re really glad that we cut out the other sixty minutes.
There are a lot of jokes attributed to Wright on the Internet. 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.
Wright got his big break when he appeared on The Tonight Show in August 1982. In 2013, Wright received The Johnny Carson Comedy Legend Award. He was nominated for two Emmy Awards as a producer on the FX series Louie. He is a regular popular guest on late night shows including Late Night With Seth Meyers and he continues to tour after 35+ years in the biz.