Steven Wright turns 52 today. I like to think of Steven Wright as the purist comic, a total ascetic; his affectless monotone strips the jokes down to their essence, leaving everything to the craft of the humorist, where the exact choice and placement of every single word works to create the joke. He must labor for days on each line, the way Leonard Cohen works on his songs, to ensure that the jokes will work even given that dry non-delivery.
And then you realize that it's not that the delivery has been removed from the equation, but that it's integral part of the act, functioning as part of the character Wright has developed, a man who has perceived, correctly, that the world is a befuddling place calling for equal parts outrage and catatonia. A world where you can see a hitchhiker carrying a sign that reads "Heaven," and that you have no choice but to hit him. As Jon Langford put it, the devil doesn't care if you're a fish or you're a stick.
Here's Steven Wright from 20 years ago: