Wrighteous, Dude!

Just try to keep a straight face when Steven Wright comes to the Touhill

Nov 10, 2004 at 4:00 am
Bostonian Steven Wright is ecstatic that his beloved Red Sox beat our beloved Cardinals in the World Series -- well, as ecstatic as his monotone delivery allows him to be. Don't hold the lack of enthusiasm (or his choice of baseball teams) against him, though; he still remains one of the most original, prolific and respected stand-up comedians around. This Grammy nominee and 1989 Academy Award winner in the Best Short Live-Action Film category for The Appointments of Dennis Jennings also appeared in Desperately Seeking Susan, Natural Born Killers and Half Baked, in addition to his vocal turn as the K-Billy DJ in Reservoir Dogs and his upcoming role in February's Son of the Mask. And while he's inspirational in his own...er, Wright, Woody Allen, George Carlin and a slew of others get Wright's creative juices flowing in turn.

Although Wright recently appeared in Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes and constantly makes the late-night rounds, he's been accused of disappearing after the '90s. Wright counters this allegation by saying, "I decided to focus on more live stuff and not go and do specials on TV as much. Why I decided that, I'm not sure, but that was my choice. I still draw an audience when I perform live, and that's what I decided to focus on more than, 'Oh, I've got to put another special on, and another special on.' That kind of drive in me wore off. My drive to write and perform didn't wear off, but my desire to be on the TV like I used to, that wore off."

Not only is Wright a comedian, he also paints and composes music (check www.stevenwright.com to see and hear his work). His artistic influences range from Rembrandt to Salvador Dalí; his musical inspiration comes from the legends: the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Dire Straits, Lucinda Williams. Wright says, "I love making songs up. I've been playing guitar for a few years. It's a very fun, creative outlet. Music doesn't have to make as [much] direct sense as comedy." He clarifies: "Comedy to me is complete logic. No matter how insane a thing is, it has to make sense in some way, or it won't be funny. So then to create musically, it's more of an emotion, obviously. The words don't even have to make complete sense. And then the painting doesn't have to make any sense. So all three things are enjoyable to do for different reasons, all coming from the same creative part inside of you."

Even with performing comedy, painting and composing, Wright still manages to find time to read and consider writing and directing a full-length film. He says of his reading tastes: "I'm reading two books now. I'm reading a book about the American Indian Sitting Bull. He's an amazing guy, the last holdout to the rape of the white man. And I'm reading Charles Bukowski, Tales of Ordinary Madness. I love him." And so far Wright only has "vague, partial ideas" for his film: "It's all just snippets of floating madness in the brain."