Yes, Steven Wright does talk the same way off stage. That slow, deliberate, deadpan, almost somnolent way. Long pauses after questions. Laconic answers.
On the phone last week from his home in Boston, Wright is perfectly friendly and patient. But he doesn’t volunteer much information or provide lengthy anecdotes. Wasted words? Rambling is not in his vocabulary.
He said it’s probably been six years since he made his last trip to Atlanta. He has no idea where he performed. This time, he’s going to be at the Variety Playhouse January 21.
He doesn’t tour much anymore, maybe just six or seven weeks out of the year. “I’ve cut it way down lately,” he said. “I’ve been doing it 30 years.” Wright said he mostly stays in the U.S. and Canada though he’ll occasionally do dates in Australia and England.
Does he need to perform to pay the bills? I’m not clear on that one. “I perform the amount that I like to perform,” he said. “I like doing the show. I enjoy doing the show.”
His last Comedy Central special was three years ago. He still does material from that special but he is always throwing in new one liners. (Most of his jokes are literally one liners.) “They’re not topical. I don’t talk about politics or pop culture. I’m talking about lint and the speed of light. Every day things not connected to a time period.”
Does he even think about, say, a Tiger Woods joke when watching the news? “Not really,” he said. “I don’t think about topical jokes. I don’t notice that. I don’t think of them. I just notice stuff.”
His style of comedy was unique back in the 1980s. He is aware some comics today are influenced by Wright but he can’t remember their names. Wright himself was influenced by the late great George Carlin and learned to structure jokes by listening to Woody Allen’s comedy albums. “I was definitely influenced by surrealism,” he added . “Surrealistic painting.”
His hobbies: he plays guitar. He reads. He follows baseball, rides bikes, watches movies, hangs with friends and family. “Stuff like that,” he said. When I suggested skydiving he said, “I’d rather stay in the plane. I’m partial to inside the plane.”
He also does abstract painting but has never tried to sell them. Wright has recorded a couple of folk songs. But he’s never performed his songs in public. And has no desire to. “I do music because it’s fun,” he said.
Goals? He’s like to do a full-length movie though he wouldn’t say what it’s about.
Wright only makes occasional TV appearances nowadays. His most recent was Craig Ferguson earlier this month. “I don’t know why,” he said. “That’s just what I do.”
Here is Wright on Letterman last year:
“I hate it when my foot falls asleep during the day because it means it’ll be up all night.”
“When I get real bored, I like to drive downtown and get a real great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me when I’m leaving.”
“Recently, I was walking my dog around the block on the ledge. A lot of people are afraid of heights. I’m afraid of widths.”
And from 1988. Yes, his jokes are timeless — and he uses the parking joke here, too:
If You Go
1099 Euclid Ave., NE, Atlanta
8 p.m. Thursday, January 21
$32.50 in advance; $35 at show
I’m on vacation this week so I apologize that the blog does not have any breaking news. I’ll be back on Monday, January 25.