Wednesday, 9 April 1997

Steven Wright, Comedian, April 8, 1997

 Melbourne Concert Hall from April 8, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Herbert on April 8, 1997
Published in The Melbourne Times in April 1997 (editor, Robin Usher)

Edward de Bono may write books about lateral thinking but Steven Wright lives them. In fact, he lives it on a planet far from ours. He inhabits the Planet Tangent that is populated by missing verbal links, living dreams, lost thoughts and ideas which turn your brain inside out.

"Don't think about it too much, " he quips after a particularly obtuse reference. "Even I don't know what I'm talking about." His one-liners are mind-bendingly funny. They come thick and fast with no let-up.

Even the pauses are hilarious. His timing is impeccable. Wright instinctively knows the answer to what might be one of his own rhetorical questions. "How long is the perfect comedy pause?"

He is "a peripheral visionary", a comic conceptual artist who despises "primitive linear thinking." His show is like an hour and a half of those mind-teasers on the funny pages - only better - and weirder.

Much of the material was in his 1996 show but it is funny the second third and probably every time. Nothing connects. There is no through-line, no narrative, no hooks to hold one's sanity together. It is dizzying, like being over-medicated on a very hot day.  Ninety minutes is almost too much funniness.

When he walks off-stage saying, "I just remembered my mother told me not to talk to strangers," we are left alone, all 2,000 of us, laughing at the space where he stood.

He says he was mentally tortured as a child by a weird grandfather and a witty but cruel father who "tried to make me go insane."

He now values only obscure thought processes and tortures the rest of the human race with convoluted yet somehow obvious concepts. He is the child who made the teacher's head explode and the adult who drives every victim to distraction - and weeping.

KATE HERBERT           

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