Does art imitate life? No, Steven Wright says, it imitates smartphones

Steven Wright is in love with his smartphone.

“Oh my God. I’m trying to buy it a little negligee,” says Wright, who performs stand-up Friday and Saturday at The Orleans.

Wright used to have one of those old dumb phones that didn’t do anything. He kept it for years because he didn’t want to become one of those people who are obsessed with smartphones.

“I wanted to stay with my wooden-covered-wagon of a phone,” he says. “I knew I would go to the (smartphone) at some point, and I knew I would then look at my phone like it was from a Charles Dickens movie.”

So now he has an iPhone. How does he feel?

“I don’t know how I was alive before. It’s unbelievable,” Wright says.

He checks everything on his phone all the time. The other day, he forced himself to leave it at home because he can’t have alone time with himself if his phone is around.

“I wanted to be by myself 1 billion percent. Not theoretically by myself 87 percent,” he says.

Here’s another problem with Wright’s smartphone: It baffles him with its tech magic.

“I don’t know how it does it, of course. Even when you scroll the email or the pictures, it just floats. It just goes, ‘Shwoo, schwoo,’ and all the pictures go by.

“Sometimes I think, ‘How is it doing that?’ And then I have to push it out of my mind very quickly, because if I stay on it too much, it makes me anxious that I have absolutely no idea how it can go like that.”

He says he understands how a boiler or a six-cylinder engine works. Basic mechanics is one thing. But these smartphones?

“This is like from another planet.”

Recently, Wright was riding in a car with a friend. They rode over a bridge. His friend said, “Look at this river!”

Wright took his eyes off of his smartphone to glance at the river.

“Then I went back to looking down at the phone. I stopped myself and went, ‘Wait a minute.’ And I forced myself to keep looking at the river.

“And then I thought: Little kids now are in the backs of cars watching ‘Harry Potter’ or cartoons on those little screens. And out the window is the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Mountain. It’s like they’re not experiencing as much.”

That’s right. In fact, I tell Wright a true story: Since I’m a video game reviewer, I sometimes look up at the sky and think: That sky reminds me of the sky in “God of War.”

Wright laughs.

“That’s hilarious. Real life is now reminding you of things you’ve rehearsed.”

That is correct. These are the days of our lives.

Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Email him at He blogs at

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