Wright's Deadpan Delivery Was There From the Start
by Mark Rahner
Seattle Times, May 17, 2002. Seattle, Washington.
Did you know that you can play a tape of Steven Wright at fast speed and it
sounds kind of like a normal voice?
Before his Seattle show, the unique and profoundly funny Oscar-winning
comedian talked from his New Hampshire home about his deadpan (and
dead-slow) conceptual humor and other matters as urgent as figuring out what
to add to a box of powdered water.
Q: It took comedian Lewis Black a while to find his yelling delivery. Was
yours the same from day one, or did you start out yelling and go the other
A: No, the only difference was, I was talking kind of fast because I
was kind of nervous. The type of joke, the whole perspective was there from
the start. After I calmed down it took like eight months before I could talk
at my regular pace. To give you a simple answer, it was there from the
Q: Do you work hard to craft a joke about, say, shooting a mime with a
A: I just hang out. I just go around and do stuff, and something'll
hit me. I write some stuff down. I don't know what I do. I just look around
and walk around aimlessly.
They just come into my mind and I just write them down. I can't write them
on purpose. I don't think, "All right, today I'm going to write some
Q: Why do you steer clear of sex and politics?
A: Growing up Catholic is like, sex is a taboo thing. And I think
even though I was an adult when I started doing comedy, that was still in my
head, like I'm not going to talk about that.
The politics thing is that I don't like talking about stuff that's
incredibly giant information that's been in the media, blasted. That's not
what interests me comedywise. I'd rather talk about lint or hinges or the
Bic pen tops ... Plus I don't even like politicians, anyway. I despise all
of them. They're just evil liars. They're just like used-car salesmen with
Q: You're like a dog doused with spot remover: People would like to see more
of you. But you don't seem like a sitcom guy.
A: I'm just a very casual person. I'm not like a driven person. I
write casually when material comes to me, and then I go out on the road. I
do about 60 shows a year. I know what you mean that people would like to see
more of me, but I'm still grateful to make a living from it, you
Q: How did winning an Oscar (in 1989 for the short film "The Appointments of
Dennis Jennings") change your life?
A: It didn't really. Other than the prestige of having it, which is
still incredible. It's very surrealistic to have one of those. It was never
a thing in my mind. I never fantasized about it. It was never a goal of
mine. My fantasy was to be a stand-up comedian eventually, if I could get on
Johnny Carson. That's what I thought about since I was 14 years old. It was
like throwing a dart: Here's the little movie, you're throwing the little
dart towards the HBO bull's-eye and a gust of wind just took it and blew it
800 miles off to the right and it stuck in another bull's-eye. Where did the
Q: By the way, was there anything you wanted to talk about?
A: I would just like to say that I think the universe is underrated.
I think the galaxy - people don't pay attention enough to the galaxy and the
rest of the universe. Humans are obsessed with the Earth. And I think that's
narrow-minded. Are you taping this?
A: Yeah, yeah, because I want that exact wording to be correct.