Biography of Steven Wright





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Steven Wright
Steven Wright 1994.jpg
Wright in 1994
Birth nameSteven Alexander Wright
Born (1955-12-06) December 6, 1955 (age 65)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
MediumStand-up, film, television
NationalityAmerican
Years active1978–present
GenresSurreal humor, one-liners, deadpan, wit/word play, observational comedy, Musical comedy, Anti-humor


Steven Alexander Wright (born December 6, 1955) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and film producer. He is known for his distinctly lethargic voice and slow, deadpan delivery of ironic, philosophical and sometimes nonsensical jokes, paraprosdokians, non sequiturs, anti-humor, and one-liners with contrived situations.


Wright was ranked as the 15th Greatest Comedian by Rolling Stone in their 2017 list of the 50 Greatest Stand-up Comics. His accolades include the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for starring, writing and producing the short film The Appointments of Dennis Jennings (1988) and two Primetime Emmy Awards nominations as a producer of Louie (2010–15). He is known for his supporting role as Leon in the Peabody Award-winning tragicomedy web series Horace and Pete.





Early life and career



Wright was born at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and grew up in Burlington, Massachusetts, one of four children of Lucille "Dolly" (née Lomano) and Alexander K. Wright. He was raised as a Roman Catholic. His mother was Italian-American, and his father of Scottish descent. Wright's father worked as an electronics technician who "tested a lot of stuff" for NASA during the Apollo spacecraft program. When that program ended, he worked as a truck driver.


Wright attended Middlesex Community College in Bedford, Massachusetts, for two years to earn his associate's degree, then continued his education at Emerson College. He graduated from Emerson in 1978 and began performing stand-up comedy the following year at the Comedy Connection in Boston. Wright cites comic George Carlin and director Woody Allen as comedic influences.


In 1982 executive producer of The Tonight Show Peter Lassally saw Wright performing on a bill with other local comics at the Ding Ho comedy club, at 11 Springfield Street, in Cambridge's Inman Square, a venue Wright described as "half Chinese restaurant and half comedy club. It was a pretty weird place." Lassally booked Wright on NBC's The Tonight Show, where the comic so impressed host Johnny Carson and the studio audience that less than a week later Wright was invited to appear on the show again. In May 2000, Wright and other Ding Ho alumni including Lenny Clarke, Barry Crimmins, Steve Sweeney, Bill Sohonage and Jimmy Tingle appeared at a reunion benefit for comic Bob Lazarus who was suffering from leukemia.



Stand-up success



Wright's 1985 comedy album, entitled I Have a Pony, was released on Warner Bros. Records, received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. The success of this album landed him an HBO special, in the On Location: series, taped at Wolfgang's in San Francisco, as a live performance, for A Steven Wright Special. By then Wright had firmly developed a new brand of obscure, laid-back performing and was rapidly building a cult-like following and an onstage persona characterized by an aura of obscurity, with his penchant for non-sequiturs and subdued, slowly-paced delivery style only adding to his mystique. The performance became one of HBO's longest running and most requested comedy specials, and propelled him to great success on the college-arena concert circuit.


In 1989 Wright and fellow producer Dean Parisot won an Academy Award for their 30-minute short film The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, directed by Parisot, written by Mike Armstrong and Wright, and starring Wright and Rowan Atkinson. Upon accepting the Oscar, Wright said, "We're really glad that we cut out the other sixty minutes." In 1992 Wright had a recurring role on the television sitcom Mad About You. He also supplied the voice of the radio DJ in writer-director Quentin Tarantino's film Reservoir Dogs that same year. "Dean Parisot's wife Sally Menke is Quentin Tarantino's [film] editor, so when she was editing the movie and it was getting down toward the end where they didn't have the radio DJ yet, she thought of me and told Quentin and he liked the idea," Wright explained in 2009.


In 1995, Wright provided voice-over work for TBS' Disaster Area cartoon block.


Numerous lists of jokes attributed to Wright circulate on the Internet, sometimes of dubious origin. Wright has stated, "Someone showed me a site, and half of it that said I wrote it, I didn't write. Recently, I saw one, and I didn't write any of it. What's disturbing is that with a few of these jokes, I wish I had thought of them. A giant amount of them, I'm embarrassed that people think I thought of them, because some are really bad."


After his 1990 comedy special Wicker Chairs and Gravity, Wright continued to do stand-up performances, but he was largely absent from television, doing only occasional guest spots on late-night talk shows. In 1999 he wrote and directed the 30-minute short One Soldier saying it's "about a soldier who was in the Civil War, right after the war, with all these existentialist thoughts and wondering if there is a God and all that stuff."


In 2006 Wright produced his first stand-up special in 16 years, Steven Wright: When the Leaves Blow Away, originally aired on Comedy Central on October 21, 2006. On September 25, 2007 Wright released his second album, I Still Have a Pony, a CD release of the material from When The Leaves Blow Away. It was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album.



Awards and honors



Steven Wright was awarded an Oscar in 1989 for Best Short Live-Action Film for The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, which he co-wrote (with Michael Armstrong) and starred in. He received two Emmy nominations as part of the producing team of Louie, first in 2014 and again in 2015.


On December 15, 2008, Wright became the first inductee to the Boston Comedy Hall of Fame.


In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted amongst the top 50 comedy acts by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. He was named No. 23 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest stand-up comics.



Other interests



While not well known for works outside of the comedy realm, Steven Wright is a musician and has recorded several non-comedy songs with his friend and occasional actor Mark Wuerthner. Wright also has an interest in painting.


Beginning in 2008, Steven Wright occasionally appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson as a visiting celebrity, often dropping by the show to help with the fan-mail segment. He joined a small cadre of Hollywood comedy celebrities who supported the show.



Filmography

Film









Year

Title

Role

Notes

1979

The Last Word

Man in Crowd

1985

Desperately Seeking Susan

Larry Stillman D.D.S.

1986

Coffee and Cigarettes

Steven

Short film; also writer

1988

The Appointments of Dennis Jennings

Dennis Jennings

Also writer and producer
Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film

Stars and Bars

Pruitt

1990

Men of Respect

Sterling

1992

Reservoir Dogs

K-Billy DJ (voice)

1993

So I Married an Axe Murderer

Pilot

1994

The Swan Princess

Speed (voice)

Natural Born Killers

Dr. Emil Reingold

Speechless

Eddie

Mixed Nuts

Man at Pay Phone

1995

For Better or Worse

Cabbie

Canadian Bacon

Niagara Mountie

1998

Half Baked

The Guy on the Couch

Uncredited

Babe: Pig in the City

Bob (voice)

1999

Goatman

1999

One Soldier

Soldier

Short; director, writer, producer

The Muse

Stan Spielberg

2000

Loser

Panty Hose Customer

2003

Coffee and Cigarettes

Steven

Segment: "Strange to Meet You"

2005

Son of the Mask

Daniel Moss

The Aristocrats

Himself

When Stand Up Stood Out

Himself

2017

The Emoji Movie

Mel (voice)

Television





Year

Title

Role

Notes

1979

WKRP in Cincinnati

Security Officer

Episode: "Fish Story"

1985

A Steven Wright Special

Himself

Stand-up special; also writer

1987

Trying Times

Dwight Harper

Episode: "Get a Job"

1991

Wicker Chairs and Gravity

Himself

HBO stand-up special;
also writer and producer

1992

Bob

Noah the Cab Driver

Episode: "Mad Dog on 34th Street"

1993

Mad About You

Warren Mermelman

5 episodes

1993–98

The Larry Sanders Show

Himself

3 episodes

1995–97

Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist

Steven (voice)

2 episodes

1997

Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child

Bogeyman (voice)

Episode: "Mother Goose"

Almost Perfect

Ray Whitestone

Episode: "Dating for Ratings"

1998

The Simpsons

Himself (voice)

Episode: "The Last Temptation of Krust"

1998–99

Hercules

Bootes (voice)

2 episodes

1999

Becker

Boyd Crossman

Episode: "Larry Spoke"

Space Ghost Coast to Coast

Himself

Episode: "Snatch"

2001

The Downer Channel

Walter

Episode: "#1.2"

Codename: Kids Next Door

Disease Hotline (voice)

Pilot episode

2006

When the Leaves Blow Away

Himself

Comedy Central stand-up special;
also writer and executive producer

2011

Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Danny (voice)

Episode: "Allen Part One"

2011–15

Louie

Comic Strip MC / Himself

Actor: 2 episodes, story by: "The Road: Part 2",
producer: 8 episodes

2015

The Flaming C

R.A.N.D.Y. (voice)

2 episodes

2016

Horace and Pete

Leon

Web series

Works

Discography

Year

Title

Notes

1985

I Have a Pony

album

A Steven Wright Special

special

1990

Wicker Chairs and Gravity

2006

When the Leaves Blow Away

special, soundtrack released in 2007 as I Still Have a Pony

Filmography

Year

Title

Notes

1999

"One Soldier"

short film



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