OK, so with his deadpan expression and seemingly lifeless delivery, Mr. Personality he’s not. But over the last three decades, dour comedian Steven Wright’s success has grown to include recurring TV roles, film appearances and even an Academy Award for a short film titled The Appointment of Dennis Jennings.
Perhaps that’s because so many can relate to his off-center, paranoid world view expressed in such lines as, “I remember when I was in the womb. I was over on the right.”
Fifty-eight-year-old Wright will continue to amuse audiences when he takes center stage at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside on Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
One of four children, Wright, who was raised in Burlington, Mass., said although he was never a class clown, he did amuse his little group of friends.
“I never said anything to make the class turn around and look at me. But outside of school, I was very funny with my buddies.”
Around the time he was 14 or 15, he began watching The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and fantasizing about being on the show.
“I’d watch Johnny do his monologues and all the comedians he had on his show, especially George Carlin and Woody Allen. I’d watch these people making stuff up, making people laugh, and suddenly I got it into my head that that’s what I wanted to do, too,” Wright recalled. “But I was extremely nervous and had a fear of public speaking, even though I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Too nervous to go to New York or Los Angeles to pursue his dream, Wright suddenly found himself in the right place at the right time when a comedy club opened near him in Boston.
“I was 23 years old by then and knew if I was ever going to go after my dream, it was now or never. So I went to open mic night and forced myself to do standup,” Wright said.
Well, it worked, and not long afterward Wright got his big break and filled a fantasy when he was booked for his first Tonight Show appearance, where he was a hit. Albums, appearances on television and other late night shows, films and so much more followed.
When he works, he’s often defined as a “clean comic.” According to Wright, he was brought up not to swear in front of people.
“Oh, it might be all right in front of your friends but not in front of groups of people. Plus, the fact when I started out HBO was just gearing up, so I didn’t want to pile up material that I couldn’t do on network TV if I got the chance.”
And, as if to complete a circle, on June 15, 2013, Wright received The Johnny Carson Comedy Legend Award. The award is given each year to a celebrated comedian who has been influenced by Carson in some way and has left his or her mark on the comedy world.
“I know I’m very, very lucky,” Wright concluded. “I feel as though when I work, I really get to play like a little kid. Instead of having to go to a factory every day, or do something I hate to do, I get to do everything I love doing.” ••
For times and ticket information, call 215-572-7650.