Published Feb 22, 2016Throughout his 37-year career, Steven Wright has always been consistently and flawlessly Steven Wright. As many of his peers have used stand-up to parlay their careers into related avenues like television (Louis CK), directing (Bobcat Goldthwait) or podcasting (Marc Maron), Wright has ponied up and stuck to the stage, eventually influencing an entire generation of dry-delivery, one-liner comedians. And consistency is exactly what Wright brought to Ottawa's Centrepointe Theatre for a Sunday evening performance.
Opening the night for a brief ten-minute set was Toronto-based comedian Perry Perlmutar. Coming off vibrant, charming and personable, Perlmutar received a positive response from the polite, mostly middle-aged audience, treading some tried-and-true stand-up territory that included bits on skinny jeans, being Canadian and his ex-wife.
Walking out to a raucous ovation, Steven Wright expertly changed the bubbly mood on stage immediately, lifelessly mumbling out his first joke, "I think all search parties are surprise parties." Although Wright is known for his one-liners, his 60-plus minute set found the Boston comedian often stringing his jokes into a larger narratives that went from relatable (dating, waiting at a doctor's office), to absurd (shooting his pet parrot for making long distance calls to Europe).
Moving from single-idea bits to narratives and two mini-sets of songs that found him noodling around on acoustic guitar, Wright was masterful in his ability to control the pace and energy of the performance, making sure his on-stage persona matched the unpredictable and left-field nature of his material.
Anchored by a bit of older material (completely understandable considering he delivered north of 150 one-liners) it's notable just how many of Wright's jokes actually hit their mark, as the audience felt safe allowing Steven to take them down any silly, poignant, existential or downright clever avenue he wished to venture.