NORFOLK, Neb. — When Steven Wright made his first appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson in August 1982, little did he know that he'd soon be invited back.
Carson enjoyed Wright's offbeat comedy routine so much that he invited him to appear again within a week — a rarity for “The Tonight Show.”
This summer, Wright will be making another return trip of sorts. He'll be in Norfolk to accept the Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award at the 2013 Viaero Great American Comedy Festival.
Eddie Brill, who is the festival's artistic director and warm-up comic for David Letterman, went to Emerson College in Massachusetts with Wright. Brill said he's excited to have Wright at the festival.
“Steven is one of the most prolific and brilliant minds in our industry ... continuing to make people laugh all over the world,” Brill said.
Brill will interview his fellow comedian as part of the festival performance on June 15 that also will feature headliner Drew Carey.
Previous recipients of the Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award have been Dick Cavett, Bill Dana, Ed Asner, Cloris Leachman and Jimmie “JJ” Walker.
Wright has enjoyed a stellar career as a stand-up comedian, writer and actor.
His back-to-back performances on “The Tonight Show” helped put his fledgling career into high gear. The comic soon found himself performing his routines on “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night” with David Letterman.
In 1985, he starred in his first HBO special. His 1986 debut album, “I Have a Pony,” earned him a Grammy nomination. In 1989, he received an Academy Award for best short film for “The Appointments of Dennis Jennings,” in which he starred and co-wrote.
Wright has been seen in numerous films including “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “So I Married an Axe Murderer” and “Natural Born Killers.” In 1999, he had a guest-starring role in “The Muse” starring Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell and Jeff Bridges. In 2008, he was the first inductee into the Boston Comedy Hall of Fame.
He recently was seen in a guest role on the FX comedy series “Louie.” Wright is a regular guest on “The Late Show” with David Letterman and “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, along with making appearances on Jimmy Kimmel's and Craig Ferguson's late-night shows. He continues touring the U.S., Canada and overseas.
Tickets on sale for array of events in Norfolk
Tickets are on sale for the 2013 Viaero Great American Comedy Festival. ,p> The festival was voted Nebraska's outstanding tourism event of 2012, and executive director Lori Williams said the 2013 festival builds on that success.
You can buy tickets online here or at the Insurance Associates office in Norfolk, 1900 W. Pasewalk Ave.
Festival performances include:
• June 12, 5:30 p.m.: Dinner show at Divots featuring the finals of the festival's amateur stand-up competition.
• June 12, 7:30 p.m.: Comedy-magic show at Johnny Carson Theatre featuring magicians Justin Willman, host of the Food Network's “Cupcake Wars,” along with Mike Caveney and Danny Cole.
• June 13, 7:30 p.m.: First round of professional stand-up competition featuring Pete Lee, winner of last year's stand-up competition, and Tom Cotter, a 2009 festival alumnus and the runner-up last year on “America's Got Talent.”
• June 13, 10 p.m.: Late-night show at Divots.
• June 14, 7:30 p.m.: Second round of professional stand-up competition.
• June 14, 10 p.m.: Late-night show at Divots.
• June 15, 7:30 p.m.: Festival gala with finals of the professional stand-up competition hosted by Drew Carey and presentation of the Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award to Steven Wright.
• June 16, 6 p.m.: Family show featuring Christian comedian Bob Smiley at the Johnny Carson Theatre.
The festival also features the “Laugh & Learn” educational sessions for children age 7 through high school June 12-14; the Laugh and a Half marathon the morning of June 15 at Norfolk High; and a new free children's festival that afternoon.
-- World-Herald News Service