Comedian Richard Pryor was a part of my growing up. And it wasn’t just because he was popular during my teen years, with movies like Silver Streak, Stir Crazy and Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars, or for his stand-up routine albums like Richard Pryor: Live on Sunset Strip and Is It Something I Said?.
I owe a lot of my love of comedy to my Dad, who in another life would have been a stand-up comic himself. My father, with the Jewfro he sported back then, held court at the dinner table with my Mother, my two sisters, and me. There he’d recite and act out, line-for-line, scenes from Stir Crazy–playing both the Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder parts. Lines from Richard Pryor movies and his stand-up routines were recited just as much as lines from movies like Woody Allen’s Take The Money and Run, and Mel Brooks’, Blazing Saddles, which Richard Pryor actually co-wrote the script for.
Pryor took a no-holds barred look at race and race relations. We let him do it because he showed us his vulnerability, too. I like this quote, reportedly by Bill Cosby, about Pryor’s work: “Richard Pryor drew the line between comedy and tragedy as thin as one could possibly paint it.”
My friend Jason posted this video of Richard Pryor in concert on Facebook just the other day, with the comment, “No one makes fun of white people better than Richard Pryor.” Indeed, he did a good job at that. And it was through his honest look at all of us, that we could take an honest look at ourselves, and somehow,…keep on laughing.
Enjoy the master at work.