It was paradoxically fun— in that it’s hard not to think a comedian is not constantly setting you up for a joke— to talk with Mr. Wright on the phone. The interview below appeared in the July 15, 2016, Falmouth Enterprise.
“I’m Basically A Normal Person”
Talking With Steven Wright
“I am basically a normal person, except; I’m not normal.” This is how comedian Steven Wright described his daily routine to me during a recent phone interview. His day, he said, is filled with a morning cup of coffee, a bike ride, an hour of writing or creative time and then, “I don’t know what I do— the next thing I know I am asleep at night.”
Cape Codders will get the opportunity to enjoy Wright’s unique perspective when he performs at the Melody Tent on Sunday, July 24th. His sleepy demeanor belies a mind in overdrive. He has been described as ironic and philosophical, however, this longtime fan thinks his comedy is best demonstrated in his masterful paraprosdokians.*
Wright’s career has spanned decades, two full-length comedy albums, over 100 film and TV credits, and multiple nominations for Grammy awards. Recently, he has worked with Louis CK as a producer on the acclaimed series “Louie,” and actor in “Horace and Pete” a web series written and directed by Louis CK, whom Wright said he considers a genius.
There is a wealth of Wright’s own material to soak up online. In addition to his website www.stevenwright.com, which also features his visual art, music and writing, there are weeks worth of YouTube video and countless sites dedicated to his concise, reality-bending quotes. However, one person who will not be Googling Steven Wright is Steven Wright. “I don’t need to,” he said, “I can just go to the mirror.”
Wright himself has recently abandoned social media as an outlet for his musings, primarily because he loves performing live. He said, “To me a joke is a live thing… a thing to be said to an audience. That is enough of getting my mind out to the public. I have said enough things in life.”
Wright’s accolades are many and include an Academy Award, which he describes as resting amongst loose papers and notes “on a table he uses as a desk,” sitting there “like a hallucination.” However he is most proud of his first appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson over 30 years ago. “That show changed my entire life!” he said. Yet, despite his success, he remains humble. When asked if he considers himself famous he responds, “I don’t consider myself famous; some people think I’m famous…”
As a Massachusetts native, it is not much of a surprise that he has family on Cape Cod and occasionally visits. The visits go back to his days before comedy where he has fond college memories of the Mill Hill Club and the Cape overall. He said, “It’s got a very unique atmosphere, the whole feeling of the summer.” Often photographed in a Red Sox cap, he loves the boys of summer and follows the team. When asked how he feels about a pitcher for the Red Sox sharing his name, with the identical spelling, he lights up, if only a little.
“Yeah, it’s kind of funny, it’s almost like if I was 13 years old and I was imagining myself being a baseball player, all I have to do is turn on the radio. I don’t watch it. I can listen to them saying my name. I am running around out in the backyard even though I’m 60 years old I am acting like I am in the game. I think he is a pretty amazing pitcher, I would like to meet him someday. I would like to get his autograph.”
With over a month to plan what he might do to prepare for his gig on Cape Cod he said, “I think I’ll leave in the next hour or so to beat the traffic. I know the traffic there wins awards.”
Comedy Central ranks Wright 22 of the top 100 comics and he is a true living legend. More importantly, he is a performer who loves what he does, even if his deadpan delivery might conceal the passion. “I love going on stage, I love performing, I love writing! It’s what I wanted to do since being 16.”
This first time interviewer thinks Wright’s unique perspective on everything from; you can’t have everything, “Where would you put it” to death “How can you die of old age?” borders on insane genius, and is excitedly waiting for this, the show of the summer. This is one not to be missed. Having been present at previous Melody Tent performances, the show does come with a warning. Take caution, you might leave with cheeks that ache from laughing and a mind that feels slightly less normal, but basically normal.
Steven Wright appears at the Melody Tent July 24, 2016. Tickets are available at http://www.melodytent.org/
*A paraprosdokian (/pærəprɒsˈdoʊkiən/) is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part.
Ben Allsup is a dog lover, autonomous underwater robot supporter, independent photographer and now comic interviewer. His images can be found at benshotme.com