Standup comedian Steven Wright doesn’t have to keep coming back to Vermont, he just likes the audiences.
“When I think of that state (Vermont), the audiences are always very good. They’re very receptive. They’re really into what I’m doing. In Burlington, the theater is really good. When I think of playing there, I think, ‘All right, this is gonna be a fun evening because that’s just what happens every time,” Wright said Tuesday.
Vermonters will have another chance to share one of those “fun evenings” with Wright at 8 p.m. Friday when he performs at Burlington’s Flynn Center. Tickets for the show are still available.
Wright said his only real connections to Vermont are growing up in Burlington, Massachusetts, so the coincidence of the two cities’ names and his experience as a New Englander, but he said he also had a girlfriend from Rutland while he was going to college in Boston at Emerson College.
Wright has been a successful comedian for more than 30 years, appearing on the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” “Late Night with David Letterman” and on today’s late night talk shows with Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers.
He is probably best known for the extreme deadpan with which he delivers thought-provoking one-liners like, “I remember the day the candle shop burned down. Everybody just stood around and sang, ‘Happy Birthday,’” and “I bought some powdered water, but I don’t know what to add.”
He has also released comedy specials and albums, acted in movies like “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “So I Married An Axe Murderer” and “Natural Born Killers” and voiced the DJ who can be heard throughout “Reservoir Dogs.”
In 1989, Wright won an Academy Award for Best Short Film for “The Appointments of Dennis Jennings,” which he co-wrote and appeared in with in Laurie Metcalf and Rowan Atkinson.
On Friday, audience members can expect a mixture of new material and some of Wright’s classic jokes. “The show is like a painting to me that’s never finished, so it just keeps evolving, move things around, take things out, put new things in. So I’ll be just doing the latest version of it,” he said.
Wright said his working pattern now is to do a few shows in a specific area and then take time off until the next set of shows. The appearance at the Flynn is part of a three-city series that includes Albany, New York, and Concord, New Hampshire. Next week, he’ll do some appearances in Florida.
While a lot of Wright’s material is available online or through his comedy specials and recordings, fans still want the live experience.
“I think seeing anything live is different. A baseball game. A concert. The show is like 85 minutes long, so it’s really like another weird world that I create,” he said.
Watching Wright perform may even be a bit of a break for an audience in the current American climate. Wright rarely curses and his material is not based on politics or even current events.
“Early on, I decided … I made all these decisions early on that I wouldn’t want to talk about stuff that was very ‘in the news,’ like, yeah, current events. I didn’t want to talk about politics. I didn’t want to talk about famous movie stars or McDonald’s or something. I wanted to talk about stuff that was, like, not really in your face, you know? So that’s why I’m talking about the speed of light and lint and coasters, and stuff like that. I don’t know. I just figured if everyone else is talking about that stuff, I won’t talk about that stuff,” he said.
Wright said he’s happy to do the humor that’s appealed to his fans for decades. He said people are so passionate about national politics now, talking about it might be disruptive.
“I don’t feel the need to get my political view in the show. It doesn’t matter to me what people think I think about politics,” he said.
Wright said he developed a dream of being a stand-up as a teenager from watching Carson and that generation of comedians. While he expressed no disappointment with his acting appearances or voice work, he said being a stand-up is a dream come true.
After years of making observations that fans quote as a sign that they can find the humor in an idiosyncratic sensibility, Wright said his humor still comes naturally.
“It’s just the way I think. Everyone’s mind has a fingerprint like your brain is just unique. This is how I see humor. It’s how I see the world and make it into humor,” he said.
Tickets for Wright’s show can be purchased online at www.flynntix.org