Wright finds humor in every corner of the world
BEAVER CREEK ” If the FBI told Steven Wright he couldn’t tell jokes anymore, he would still think of them anyway. Wright couldn’t possibly stop his comedic brain muscles from flexing.
“I have exercised that part of my brain that looks for things that are crazy, that can be made into jokes,” Wright said. “I’ve done a million push-ups with that part of my brain. That part of my mind is in shape to write jokes.”
Wright is a famous comedian. He has been since 1982 when Johnny Carson invited him on the “Tonight Show” for back-to-back appearances, which was a rarity for the king of late night. However, when asking around the office if people had heard of Wright, about half gave me blank stares.
Then I described him: frizzy black hair, monotone voice, dead-pan face, says things like, “I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.” He’s the voice from the “Reservoir Dogs” soundtrack. Ring any bells?
I had known about Wright. I watched him perform in a couple HBO stand-up specials, and I had seen his award-winning performance as The Guy On The Couch in “Half Baked.” I knew just how quick and intelligent his observational humor could be, and I was a little nervous about the interview.
Two minutes into it, and Wright had me answering all the questions. How tall are you? How many times a week do you ski? What color hair do you have? What kind of bike do you ride? What’s your favorite subject to write about? Where did you move from to Vail? How long have you lived in Vail?
For a minute, I thought I was riding the chair lift with a couple of tourists, but Wright asked all this, intermittently slipping in a couple of his quintessential wry one-two punches.
When I told him I loved to cook because it was relaxing, how it made me concentrate on the meal at hand instead of everyday worries, Wright responded: “That’s how I feel about shoplifting. If you don’t concentrate or do it right, you might get arrested. No time to think about any of my problems, just how I’m going to get these gloves out of here.”
Wright’s mind is always churning, and he never gets bored. Wright said he’s always thinking about life, reading, painting, watching movies, playing the guitar and sleeping. When it comes to his stand-up act, he doesn’t sit down and try to write jokes. He just goes through life and reacts to what he sees and experiences.
“From the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep at night, you see so many things, hear so many words, there’s so much information in that whole time period, every single day,” Wright said. “Some of it jumps out and could be made into a joke.”
Most of his humor is based on subjects anyone can identify with: signs, lint, gravity. He rarely feels the need to incorporate the location of his act into his routine.
“It’s like a painter with his painting,” Wright said. “If he’s showing in Florida, he wouldn’t say, ‘I got to put some palm trees behind this barn.'”
So the audience at the Vilar Center Monday night shouldn’t expect any second-homeowner jokes, just a spewing of Wright’s imagination, delivered in short, clever sentences that have no apparent order, only strong comedic strength.
Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14640, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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