Comedian Steven Wright speaks slowly, deliberately in the cadence we have grown used to over his nearly 40-year stage and film career.
You tell him he sounds like he just woke up, and he laughs.
“Oh, that’s hilarious. I have a history of that,” he acknowledges, then in a monotone clip speaking faster than you have probably ever heard him speak, he says: “It’s raining out. It’s cold. I’m driving a car in Massachusetts. It’s pouring. I drank coffee. I’m completely awake. I love the rain. It’s cold out and you ask me if I’m awake.”
It makes no sense, and perfect sense.
Welcome to the mind of Steven Wright, who brings his quirky, quick-witted, deadpan comedy to Rialto Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 1.
Wright, who started doing stand-up in 1979, got his big break after appearing with Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” in 1982.
He started watching the late-night host when he was 16.
“A guy would come out and talk about life, all this funny stuff he made up about life, and then go sit down and talk to Johnny Carson. I got it in my head that that’s what I would like to do. I got it into my head that I would like to be the guy that went on that show sometime,” he says.
The whole magic of it inspired him to pursue stand-up.
During a stand-up gig in his native Massachusetts in 1982, a “Tonight Show” producer caught his act and invited him to do Carson.
“It was an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ going through the looking glass” moment, he says. “It was like five minutes and my whole life was seized.
“I didn’t think, ‘Well then what would happen?’ I just thought I would just go on that show. I didn’t think of what would happen after that. It is amazing. It’s just amazing.”
That moment turned into 40 years of funny business. He’s appeared in nearly two dozen TV shows (“Mad About You,” “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” “The Larry Sanders Show” among them); more than two dozen movies (“Half Baked,” “The Emoji Movie,” “Reservoir Dogs”); stand-up around the world; and recordings including his Grammy-nominated 1985 debut “I Have A Pony” that he revisited in 2007’s “I Still Have A Pony.”
“I’m so lucky,” he says. “It’s like I’m in kindergarten permanently. All I do is make s*** up and finger paint with words and go out and show people my little pictures and then I go home and take naps. Creativity is such a fun thing. I feel lucky that some people likes it enough for me to have a career.”