Comedian Steven Wright on His Deadpan Style, Getting Inspired By Salvador Dali, Working With Quentin Tarantino, and More
Steven Wright likes to keep his comedy short but sweet. And plenty weird. Throughout his 30-year career In the early 1980s, the legendary comedian has condensed his quips into curt absurdist punchline, uttered in his trademark low-key and deadpan style, typically without setup or lengthy embellishment. (For example: "It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to have to paint it.")
Courtesy of The Phoenix Comedy Festival Comedian Steven Wright
Wright got his big break on the Tonight Show when the comedian made the late Johnny Carson crack up with laughter via his weirdly erudite observations of the world (One of our favorites: "I bought a house, on a one-way dead-end road. I don't know how I got there.")
In the three decades since, he's appeared in numerous independent movies, including Quentin Tarantino's debut film Reservoir Dogs, and even guest-starred recently on Louis C.K.'s hysterical FX television show.
Wright will be one of the headliners of the Phoenix Comedy Festival this weekend, which will raise funds for the Bill of Rights Memorial being built at the Arizona State Capitol. And although Wright didn't have much to say on the subject of free speech when Jackalope Ranch interviewed him recently, the comedian discussed his various influences (which include George Carlin and Salvador Dali), his deadpan style, and what it was like working with Tarantino.
Much of your humor is very cerebral in nature. Has there ever been times when people just don't get your jokes?
No. There's times when I can get the point across pretty clearly, so when they don't laugh it's not that they don't get it, it's that they don't think it's funny. It's not that they don't understand what I'm talking about, because I'm not really talking about. I know it's really not that complicated.
My favorite joke of yours is when you mention going into a restaurant that serves breakfast anytime, so you ask for "French toast during the Renaissance."
Thank you. A guy brought that one up to me yesterday actually. It's one of my favorite ones.
Do you get tired of hearing your bits repeated to you, like how much people love them.
No, otherwise I would be digging ditches. I like that they bring them up like you just did.
Is there any sort of formula to your humor or is it just like how it comes out of your head?
There's no formula. From the moment you wake up to when you go to sleep, you keep tiny pieces of information like a mosaic painting just drifting by all day just zapping all day until you go to sleep. Some of those things just like leap out or I connect with 'em. Oh look at that if you put that one over there, that's funny, that's not how that's usually looked at. It's like that. It's from noticing, simply from noticing.