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Steven Wright

The first thing you’ll notice when speaking with Steven Wright is that his stage persona is not an act. His famously measured, low, almost-monotonous manner of speech is the same on the phone as it is onscreen or onstage, which can make for a difficult interview, what with all the pregnant pauses and exasperated exhalations on the other end of the line.

Not that you can blame the guy for seeming a bit aloof. Wright has been performing stand-up comedy for 25 years now. He received a Grammy nomination for his one and only album (1985’s I Have a Pony), took home an Academy Award for his 1989 short film The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, and has performed on every television program that broadcasts stand-up comedy. He or his voice has appeared in nearly 20 films, his live performances continue to pack people in, and still, on this particular Thursday afternoon, he finds himself tied to the phone, talking with reporter after reporter.

So I try to change things up a bit by asking Wright to list the five funniest words in the English language, in his opinion. After a brief pause, Wright chuckles and says, “I think the word premises is very funny. . . .Um, nocturnal. . . . To tell you the truth, I really don’t think specific words are hilarious. Just trying to answer your question. I think lying is funny—the word, not the thing. I won’t answer the other two.”

Oh well. Seemed like a good enough question at the time.

How about this: Any advice for young comics looking to stay alive in the difficult world of stand-up? “They should trust their instinct of what they think is funny,” he says. “[They should] try it out in front of the audience, and go onstage as much as possible ’til they get a sense of what they are or what they’re doing. Then probably go to Los Angeles and hope someone sees [them] in a club there.”

No secret formulas or plots? How, then, did Steven Wright manage to build such a successful career for himself? “I’m always going on the road,” he says with some amount of enthusiasm. “I do 60 or more cities a year. I’m starting up next week in Florida . . . traveling all around.”

But, when so many of his colleagues have used the stand-up circuit as a jumping-off point to television and film, I ask him why he never made the leap himself, to which he points out, “I was in a sitcom [a recurring role on Mad About You], but I never wanted to do my own sitcom. . . . I didn’t do this in order to do other stuff. A lot of people go into stand-up just get on some show or something. . . . I wanted to do this specifically. I didn’t know how far it would go; I just wanted to get on The Tonight Show. [His first appearance came in the summer of 1982.] That was my dream. So to have that happen, and then go on there many times . . . and do all this other stuff on top of it. . . . Twenty-five years of making a living from writing and creating—it’s fantastic.”

Steven Wright will perform this Saturday (Feb. 12) at the Palace Theater (19 Clinton Ave., Albany). Tickets for the 8 PM show are $26.50 and $29.50, and can be purchased at the Palace Theater box office, or by calling Ticketmaster at 476-1000.

—John Brodeur

Close Encounters With Music

It’s an all-Beethoven evening this Saturday in Great Barrington, as Close Encounters with Music hosts pianist Adam Neiman, violinist-NPR commentator Toby Appel and cellist-CEWM director Yehuda Hanani in An Evening of Beethoven Trios. The program will include the Archduke Trio and Opus 1, No. 1.

Neiman is a young guy, just 25, and comes with as much buzz as one might possibly conceive. To quote the Arizona Daily Sun: “Sometime in the early years of the 21st century, perhaps around 2026-29, the name Adam Neiman will top the list of the world’s great virtuoso concert pianists.”

That’s some plug. See for yourself.

Close Encounters With Music will present an Evening of Beethoven Trios on Saturday (Feb. 12) at 6 PM at St. James Church (Main Street and Taconic Avenue, Great Barrington, Mass.). Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for students. For more information, call (800) 843-0778 or visit www.cewm.org.

The Zambonis

Peruse the titles of this New York band’s releases—100% Hockey . . . and other stuff; Playoff Fever—and you should get an idea of where the Zambonis are coming from. They’ve been featured numerous times on ESPN, played at the 2002 NHL All-Star Game, and even composed a theme song for the Boston Bruins. Their Web site bills them as “North America’s Favorite All-Hockey Band.” Doesn’t seem like there could be all that many out there, does it?

Well, if you’re in the market for hockey-themed rock & roll, Saturday night’s show is for you: Two Man Advantage also promise songs about hockey . . . plus some about Heineken and cars.

The Zambonis and Two Man Advantage will hockey-rock King’s Tavern (241 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs) on Saturday (Feb. 12). The Vertical Agents will open the 9 PM show. For tickets or information, call 581-7090.


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