Steven Wright

Before Twitter there was Steven Wright, who in the early ’80s condensed his Tonight Show jokes into pithy absurdist haikus, delivered in severe deadpan without setup or biographical embellishment. (For instance: “I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.”) His stage presence was to have no stage presence, a kind of Zen absence from his material. Despite his comical Jewfro, Wright refused to do anything wacky, to make any kind of physical investment in his jokes. He didn’t sell the laugh, the way his peers like Jay Leno and Robin Williams did so profitably. For that reason, perhaps, he never hit it big, never got a sitcom, has never done more than a few supporting roles in movies. His monotone delivery was a minimalist rebuke to ’80s excess; if you didn’t get the humor, you just weren’t listening carefully enough. Three decades later, Wright is still doing more with less. BRIAN MILLER

Wed., Oct. 20, 8 p.m., 2010

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