“It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.” Unsmiling, vaguely vertiginous, working in short bursts of non-sequitur, intellectual queasiness and semantic flex, Steven Wright was the antidote to every stand-up comedy cliché when he emerged in the mid-1980s. In 1985 he released a hit comedy record, I Have a Pony. His first HBO comedy special was a smash success. His memorable, repeatable and absurdist jokes – “I have a large seashell collection that I keep along all the major coasts” – made the rounds in a fashion that we would have called viral if we had had the word for it.
In an age dominated by fiercely confessional comics like Louie C. K. and Maria Bamford, Wright keeps on teasing brains in his deadpan, sleepy way. He performs at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston on Saturday, April 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $31 to $55, based on location. They are available at the Bardavon box office at 35 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, (845) 473-2072; the UPAC box office at 601 Broadway in Kingston, (845) 339-6088; or through Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.