The existentially twisted homilies of Steven Wright, something like Ben Franklin on acid, brought the comedian national renown in the 1980s. His mind-game material was especially suited to short talk-show appearances, but for 90 minutes Friday, he took the crowd at the sold-out Warner Theatre into a bizarre world that delights and baffles like an Escher print.
"The universe is expanding," he mused in one random observation. "That should help ease the traffic."
Unlike most comedians -- including the pleasantly funny Allan Goodwin, who opened for him -- Wright had nothing to say about politics, race relations, war or the economy. Sporting a fedora, blazer and casual pants -- all black, naturally -- the comic instead offered zany thoughts on birth, death, suicide and that expanding universe with his familiar deadpan delivery and an occasional grin, as if surprised by his own conclusions.
"I wondered how life would be different if I'd been born a day earlier," he said. "Then I realized I would've asked myself that question yesterday."
For a nice break in the monologue, Wright picked up an acoustic guitar and regaled the crowd with Dylan-like folk songs, which included such peculiar verses as "Oh, I think the kitten's trying to kill me -- I'd better kill him first."
Apparently, Wright's Gary Larson-like mind never stops. Halfway through the show, his microphone cord mysteriously popped out. He plugged it back in, looked momentarily bemused, then told the silent audience: "Now I have to start the show over."
-- Leonard Hughes