Comedian Steven Wright to perform at the Flynn

Sophia Venturo

The comedian’s voice seeped out of the phone in a low, vibrating register to talk about his return to the Burlington comedy scene. 

Stand-up comedian Steven Wright will perform at Burlington’s Flynn Center for the Performing Arts Nov. 15,  as the second stop on a two-week tour along the East Coast. 

Wright is an accomplished stand-up performer, writer and producer. His merits include an Academy Award win and two Grammy and Emmy nominations respectively.“Rolling Stone” listed Wright as one of the 50 Best Standup Comics of All Time in a February 2017 article.

Wright’s voice is as distinct and deadpan as it is in his stage delivery: full of procured snappy soundbites dished out in rumbling, lethargic doses, never laughing and never dwelling.

Wright’s stand-up is known for its contrived surrealism. His bits come in two sentence packages, wrapped up in monotony, demanding little work to understand or relate to, then bursting open like a jack-in-the-box with absurdity.

Like on his 1985 Grammy nominated album, “I Have a Pony,” Wright quips about getting into a speed-reading accident and attempts to determine if one can melt dry ice in order to swim without getting wet.

Wright’s distinct delivery allows him to move seamlessly from one-liner to one-liner, pause, strum a guitar and keep on moving. 

Wright said his stand-up style hasn’t changed.

“I have this perspective on things, an abstract perspective,” he said. “The material has changed of course, but my angle on the world hasn’t changed.”

Wright’s signature drone and partiality for the obscure landed him the role of “Meh” in 2017’s animated feature “The Emoji Movie,” his most recent film credit, he said.

“I was the one with no expression, obviously, you hear how I talk,” Wright said. “But doing a voice in a movie, I didn’t write it, so that’s different. There’s no audience, so there’s no tension. “Stand-up is still my favorite thing.”

Fans can rest assured that he will continue to observe the world through his signature lense, but Wright also acknowledges how the commonplaces of life have changed, including our attention to technology, he said.

“You kinda can’t help it,” Wright said. “It’s so in your face. People rely on it so much. I thought my phone broke once, and it was like a spaceship picked me up and brought me to another planet, like I was gonna be detached from my whole life.”

Some of Wright’s contemporary comics have publicly discussed norm changes in the entertainment industry from shifting standards regarding what language or concepts are acceptable to use or to reference.

For example, in a 2015 interview on “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” Jerry Seinfeld made arguments against staunch political correctness and criticized its impact on comics.

Wright said he acknowledges that a focus on political correctness has impacted his work recently, but because the foundation of his stand-up is built from such basic ideas, he has not had to work hard to adapt to shifting social currents, he said.

“I’ve had to take out a few because they bothered people,” Wright said. “I think the pendulum has to go back more. It’s swung too far. Everything is sensitive.”  

To that extent, he agrees with Seinfeld, he said.

Despite that objection and his loyalty to his personal stand-up approach, Wright said his comedy is ever changing and evolving.

“The show is like a painting,” he said. “It’s never finished. It’s like living. It’s not like November’s over and then you’re not alive anymore and then there’s a new version of you in December.”

A native of Burlington, Massachusetts, Wright has been living in New England for the last 18 years, but touring off-and-on in short intervals, he said.

“When I think of going there, it’s always a good experience,” Wright said of Vermont. “I’ve been there many times in a lot of towns that I definitely don’t remember the names of, and the crowds are always receptive.”

Steven Wright will perform at 8 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Flynn Center for Performing Arts.