This Saturday night (at 9pm/EST, on Comedy Central), comedian Steven Wright returns to cable television with his first stand-up special in 15 years. Aptly titled for autumn, When the Leaves Blow Away demonstrates that the master of monotone hasnt lost a step when it comes to walking a thin line between deep philosophical pondering and seemingly muscle-relaxer-induced rambling. TVGuide.com spoke with the Oscar-winning, Grammy-nominated performer to get the scoop on the special, and in the process confirmed that he really does talk like that.
TVGuide.com: Its been 15 years since your last special. How did you know you were ready to take another crack at it?
Wright: Well, all comedians notice stuff. Thats how you come up with the comedy, by noticing things around you. So I notice things, of course, but there are some big things I dont even notice, like time passing by.
TVGuide.com: Wow, thats some oversight.
Wright: It is. It only dawned on me a couple years ago, when I was looking out at the audience before a show started. I noticed that the audience was mainly in their forties, fifties and sixties, and I thought, Man, people who are in college now were, like, five when I did my last special. No wonder they dont know me. A lot of kids just know me from Half Baked Oh, yeah, you were the guy on the couch. So I thought I should do another [special].
TVGuide.com: Has your creative process changed over the years?
Wright: Not really. From the minute anyone wakes up to when they go to sleep, there are billions of pieces of information that go past you. Some of that occasionally gives me a joke. Usually, Im not trying to look for material when it happens. My subconscious is scanning constantly and I dont even know that it is. Then it says, This just in.... And my consciousness goes, Ah, yes, thank you.
TVGuide.com: You went with wearing a hat in the special. It kind of gives you a Bob Dylan vibe, especially when you play guitar.
Wright: I used to wear a Red Sox hat, but a few years ago I saw this band and a couple of the guys had hats like that. Then I thought, Maybe I should try one of those hats. So I did. And I liked it. Ive worn that hat for the last three years or so.
TVGuide.com: The world, as you describe it in your work, is a very confusing place. Since you started doing stand-up, has the world become any less complicated?
Wright: I think its more complicated. All these technological advances that are supposed to make your life easier have added up and made it more chaotic. Answering machines to faxes and now to cell phones and e-mail.... Instead of saving you time, theyre causing you to focus more on all of these things. Youre constantly filing, trying to figure out who you need to contact and who you can wait to get back to. Its like everyone is working in an abstract phone company.
TVGuide.com: Ive talked to a few young stand-ups who cite you as a big influence. Did you emulate any comics when you were starting out?
Wright: I was very taken with Woody Allens double stand-up album. He did it before he did movies, and it was just incredible. Also, George Carlin I memorized his Class Clown album. I loved how he would talk about everyday things and do a whole new thing with them. When I was growing up, there was a radio show in Boston where the guy would play two comedy albums every Sunday night. I used to listen to that all the time. I think I was studying it without knowing it.
TVGuide.com: Every article about you seems to use the word "deadpan" somewhere in the text. Is there a better descriptor for your style?
Wright: I never thought about it, really. I can see why they would say that from the way I talk.
TVGuide.com: So you actually speak in your everyday life like you do when youre on stage?
Wright: Well, youre talking to me now. Does it sound the same way?
TVGuide.com: Yeah, but you could just be putting me on.
Wright: Thats true. No, Im not putting you on. I laugh more when Im hanging out with people than when Im on stage, but otherwise this is how I talk. When I first started out, I was so nervous and I wanted to say jokes the right way. I was concentrating very hard and it came out so serious. I still am trying to concentrate. Its still a matter of saying it the right way.
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