Interviews

Comedian Steven Wright on His Deadpan Style, Getting Inspired By Salvador Dali, Working With Quentin Tarantino, and More

Steven Wright likes to keep his comedy short but sweet. And plenty weird. Throughout his 30-year career In the early 1980s, the legendary comedian has condensed his quips into curt absurdist punchline, uttered in his trademark low-key and deadpan style, typically without setup or lengthy embellishment. (For example: "It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to have to paint it.")

Wright got his big break on the Tonight Show when the comedian made the late Johnny Carson crack up with laughter via his weirdly erudite observations of the world (One of our favorites: "I bought a house, on a one-way dead-end road. I don't know how I got there.")

In the three decades since, he's appeared in numerous independent movies, including Quentin Tarantino's debut film Reservoir Dogs, and even guest-starred recently on Louis C.K.'s hysterical FX television show.

Wright will be one of the headliners of the Phoenix Comedy Festival this weekend, which will raise funds for the Bill of Rights Memorial being built at the Arizona State Capitol. And although Wright didn't have much to say on the subject of free speech when Jackalope Ranch interviewed him recently, the comedian discussed his various influences (which include George Carlin and Salvador Dali), his deadpan style, and what it was like working with Tarantino.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.