Stay calm

Steven Wright

The master of the deadpan one-liner jokes will perform at the Celebrity Showroom in John Ascuaga’s Nugget on Oct. 15. For tickets or more information, visit

When were you last in Reno?

2009, at the same venue. … It was a good audience. The only reason I remember it is that I remember that it wasn’t bad. I can’t describe anything of it.

The good shows are more memorable? It seems like the bad shows would be more memorable.

That’s kind of what I mean. It’s not a bad show, it’s a hard audience, and that only happens—I mean, it happens, but it didn’t happen there, so mathematically, it must have been a good show, because it wasn’t a bad show.

When you have a hard audience, how do you respond?

I just try to keep it going, and act like it’s not fazing me. And just remain calm. And maybe switch some material around in my head to try to get out of a jam. … Every show—it doesn’t go like a straight line across. Say, on a scale from one to 10, say a show was a seven. … It would go up to an eight or a nine, and then dip down to a six and a five, you know, so it’s an average of a seven, if it was a seven. It goes up and down like a rollercoaster. So, sometimes when it goes down, it stays down for a long time for some reason. That’s what I mean by a hard audience. And it’s not the people. They come in as individuals and they accidentally add up to one being, and then that’s what it is. …

It’s kind of funny to hear you talk about trying to remain calm …

[Laughs.] That’s the thing about me. I’m mainly a laidback person, but sometimes my mind is racing, and there’s a car accident inside my head, but appears that I’m browsing in a bookstore. Sometimes what happens in my head doesn’t convey to my face. …

Is that something you’ve cultivated? Or is it just how you are naturally?

It’s just how I am. Like, I’ll bump into someone. I didn’t see a guy for three years. And I was somewhere, and my bike was broken. My chain fell off. And I was down on the ground trying to fix the chain, and I looked up, and this guy was standing there. I hadn’t seen him in three years, and I said [calmly], “Oh. Hi Joe. How’s it going?” and he found it hilarious. He told this other friend that was my reaction, and it was a big joke between all of us. I had to explain to them that in my head I went, “My god! Joe! What are you doing here? This is unbelievable!” But it didn’t go out like that. It just came out, “Oh. Hi Joe. How’s it going?” Like I saw him an hour ago.

When you started out doing comedy, were there parts that you did plan?

I planned all the jokes. I wrote all the jokes. I wrote them, and I thought, maybe this is funny, maybe this is funny. I think this is funny, and then I would try them out, because the audience decides whether they’re funny or not, not me. So that was all planned. But how I moved around the stage, and the demeanor, and the pace—that all just happened by me being out there.

How do you write a joke? Do you just see something that you think is funny?

What I see is—the world is made up of just fragments, pieces of information, like a mosaic painting. You know, with the little chips. So there’s all this information, every day, every minute of every day, and sometimes I just see something and I go, oh, if you took that another way, if you interpret this thing that’s always interpreted this way, and then you interpret it a different way, then that would be funny. Or, if you combine two of these things—like, I have a joke, “A friend of mine is on the Ouiji Board of Directors.” So, there’s Ouiji boards, and then there’s boards of directors. Those are two things, but when you connect them, it makes a joke. Those two things exist on their own, and I just put them together. Somehow my brain just connected them.