Q&A with Comedian Steven Wright
Photograph by Jorge Rios
Everyone talks about your influence on standup comedy. Are you ever like, Hey, Iām still here?
It started happening about 10 years ago, when people would be doing jokes like mine. When I was on TV in the ā80s, I wasnāt thinking, Thereās a 10-year-old kid watching this and in 15 years, heās gonna be doing stuff that was influenced by me. I was trying to get my five minutes together. So now that those people are comedians and theyāre influenced by meāitās bizarre. Iāve only gotten used to it in the last two or three years. Itās still weird, but I understand the role that Iāve been given by accident. So I talk to young comedians. Weāre all in it together.
I remember your jokes being some of the first email forwards, and theyāve been all over the Web. But there are probably a ton of fake āSteven Wrightā ones out there.
When the Internet first came out, there were pages of my jokes, and I had written all of them. Now if you look, half of them I didnāt even write. The Internet is like the Wild West. Itās like they broke into Barnes & Noble and went over to Oliver Twist, and they ripped out Chapter 7 and instead wrote their own chapter and jammed it in. Now, all of a sudden, Oliverās in Miami, building boats, dating a prostitute.
So now all your jokes on the Internet end in someone going to Miami and dating a prostitute?
Haha, Iām so used to it now. It used to bother me. Some of the jokes are so stupid and itās like, Oh my God, people are gonna think I said this. Iām gonna have to move to Cuba. But thereās another bunch of them that Iām like, Oh man, I wish I thought of that. Like this one going around now,Ā it started on Facebook, itās,Ā āI want to live forever. So far, so good.ā I didnāt think of that. I wish I did, though.
Do you have a favorite joke?
Yes. Jokes are like surfing on the audience. Some jokes absolutely get the same reaction. Others fluctuate on different nights. This one, on a scale of one to ten, fluctuates between six and eight: āMy grandfather, when he died, I went to the wake with my aunt, and I was kneeling down at the casket, and I was looking at him inside the casket, and I started thinking about my flashlight. And I started thinking about the batteries inside my flashlight, and then I said to my aunt, āMaybe heās not dead, maybe heās just in the wrong way.āā
Thatās great. So why that one?
Because it was born out of experience, really. You know, you put new batteries on the table, you take the old ones out, and you turn back and donāt know which ones are the dead ones or the real ones. So hereās this experience that everyone goes through, but no oneās ever discussed in the history of the universe. And then I whip it through to the death of the grandfather and put it into the person. I just like that I made that connection. Plus, so much information is communicated in not a lot of words. And Iām fascinated that I figured that one out, because usually it comes all at once, but I couldnāt word that one for a couple of weeks. I wasnāt thinking about it constantly, but I remember riding a bike in Santa Monica and thinking, Oh, yeah!
So most of them just come to you?
Yeah. Well, theyāre all from noticing things. Some jokes Iāve had are because I didnāt hear what someone actually said. Like I have a joke about how my nephew has HDADD: āHe has high definition attention deficit disorder. He can barely pay attention, but when he does, itās unbelievably clear.ā And that joke was ācause I was with this friend of mine in a bar and I thought she said, āHDADD.ā
You keep such a low profileāwhy?
I have no real plan. I donāt really know why. I still perform a lot, not as much as I used to. Thatās just how it is.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2012/11/interview-comedian-steven-wright/