Interview with Steven Wright: “Steven, Take This Down”

The creative process is different for everyone. Some labor over a desk trying to ascertain the right word, or the right note or the right brush stroke for hours at a time. Others have their subconscious speak to them, and they simply write it down.

The latter is plainly the case with Steven Wright, a desk-less (as explained below) man who has been a fixture in modern comedy since his recently reissued 1985 album I Have A Pony. Later that decade, he won an Academy Award for the short film The Appointments Of Dennis Jennings, but many are more familiar with his ‘90s film work as the DJ in Reservoir Dogs, the pilot in So I Married An Axe Murderer, or the guy on the couch in Half Baked.

But for the past 30 years, stand-up has been what Wright has spent the bulk of his public career on, although his interest is waning, and you may soon see him in films again. Or not. We didn’t quite work out what his next move is.

It sounds like a stupid question, but what have you been doing for the last six months? I’ve been looking, and I can’t seem to find anything.

Oh, I’ve barely done anything. I went on Letterman in June. I did a show in June in Boston, did a show on Cape Cod in July. Sometimes I take these big breaks, I take the summer off usually.

Is that to recharge?

It’s just that I’ve been doing this thirty years and I don’t like to do it constantly anymore. I usually go and do a big tour in the spring and the fall, but I’m even cutting back on that now.

Is there something else that’s more fulfilling for you now?

No, I’m kind of figuring out what I’m going to do next. I still like doing it; I just don’t want to do it as much, the stand-up I mean. But I haven’t replaced it with anything.

Do you have any leads?

I’d like to do some more film stuff, maybe some more acting. I’ve been writing and recording music—might try my hand at that.

Just by looking at what you’ve been in recently, it looks like you’ve been shying away from film over the last four or five years.

Yeah, I’d like to do more of it though. Mainly, I’m a stand-up comedian, so if film things came along, they did, if they didn’t, that was fine with me too. But now that I’m backing off from the stand-up a little bit, it means more to me now to be doing other things.

Would you say you want to get back into writing films or just acting?

Both. See, I’m a very casual person. It’s like you’re asking me as if I have this big plan, and I don’t really. I just know that I’m backing off from stand-up and I’d like to do other stuff, but I’m not getting up at 8 a.m. and diving into this new section in my life.

Are you still coming up with stand-up material constantly?

Not constantly. I never came up with it constantly. It would just come into my mind and I would write it down. Then I’d have periods when it didn’t come into my mind, but I’m still writing it down when I think of something I like.

Have you ever come up with a joke and then realized that you had that joke?

Kind of. Kind of came up with the same subject maybe with a slightly different twist. Yes, that’s happened. I think it’s amusing. Like, ‘Oh yeah, no wonder this seems right for me, I already did it.’ It’s kind of funny actually.