The Swing of Things: Comic Steven Wright turns observations into humor

click to enlarge The Swing of Things: Comic Steven Wright turns observations into humor
(Steven Wright/Submitted)
Steven Wright has released a multitude of albums and comedy specials throughout his career.

Comic Steven Wright can find humor in anything.

On a walk near his home in Carlisle, Massachusetts, Wright came upon a Little League baseball team.

“I used to play Little League out here,” he said.

“There’s no manager or anything. There’s one kid who’s acting like the boss. He’s yelling and he’s not any older than the rest of them.

“It’s Orwellian — except it’s on a Little League field instead of a farm,” he added with a laugh. “He’s a little bit taller and a little bit heavier. He just took over.”

Wright and his dead-pan sense of humor will come to The Rialto Theater on Friday, June 24.

Raised in Burlington, Massachusetts, Wright stepped onto the stage for the first time during an open mike night, and became regular at Ding Ho’s Comedy Club and Chinese Restaurant in Cambridge.

He appeared on the “Tonight Show” for the first time on Aug. 6, 1982. The comic soon found himself performing his off-beat routines on “Saturday Night Live,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” and numerous trips back to “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.”

Wright expanded his comedy career to include comedy albums, film and TV appearances.

His 1985 debut album, “I Have a Pony,” earned a Grammy nomination. The same year, he starred in his first HBO offering, “A Steven Wright Special.”

Four years later, in 1989, Steven was honored with an Academy Award for Best Short Film for his film entitled “The Appointments of Dennis Jennings” in which he starred and co-wrote.

His second HBO special, “Wicker Chairs and Gravity,” hit the small screens in September 1990.

The silver screen has been home to his humor, too. His resume includes “Desperately Seeking Susan,” Mike Meyers’ “So I Married An Axe Murderer,” Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers,” and Nora Ephron’s “Mixed Nuts.”

Wright was the voice of the DJ, K-Billy, in “Reservoir Dogs” and starred with John Cleese and Jack Palance in New Line’s animated film, “The Swan Princess” as the voice of Speed, the turtle.

In 1999, Wright played a guest starring role in Albert Brooks’ film “The Muse” starring Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell and Jeff Bridges. In ’98 he played a supporting role in Dave Chappelle’s “Half-Baked” and was a featured voice in “Babe 2: Pig in the City.”

He continued to be prolific through the 2000s, when he premiered his special “When the Leaves Blow Away” on Comedy Central. When it was released on DVD, it featured Wright’s 1999 short film, “One Soldier.”

With his efforts came accolades. His second CD, “I Still Have a Pony,” was released by Comedy Central Records on Sept. 25, 2007, and earned his second Grammy Award nomination for best comedy album.

Wright was honored as the first inductee into The Boston Comedy Hall of Fame on Dec. 15, 2008. The ceremony included performances by legendary Boston comedians Tony V, Don Gavin, Lenny Clarke, Kenny Rogerson, Steve Sweeney, Mike Donovan, Barry Crimmins, Mike McDonald and Fran Solomita.

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 and has left his or her own mark on the comedy world. In past years, award recipients have included Dick Cavett, Cloris Leachman and Ed Asner.

These days, Wright performs occasional shows.

“When I was younger, I did that and it was just normal,” he said. “But it’s tiring.”

He kept his morale up during the COVID-19 pandemic, however. Wright stuck with his routine of exercising in the morning and drinking coffee for two hours.

“That heightens my imagination,” he said. “I write down everything that comes into my head, whether it’s jokes or not.

“During the pandemic, I couldn’t do shows for two years and three months. However, my mind didn’t stop ever. Stand up is two things: writing and performing. It’s two completely different things.”

In better times, his whole MO is about observation.

“It’s like being in nursery school with fingerpaints, but it’s with words and ideas,” he said. “Like this Little League kid, this kid takes over. I love watching the world and then some of it are done on the stage. It’s a very playful thing.”

Steven Wright

8 p.m. Friday, June 24

The Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress Street, Tucson

Tickets start at $34