Sunday, December 11, 2005

Richard Pryor, RIP

I heard about Pryor's death yesterday while driving through town on my Xmas shopping trip. Oddly enough, just last Wednesday at work I made a reference to a Pryor comic bit about his 2 monkeys. Pryor was/is the greatest comedian I've ever seen/heard (only seen on film). Chris Rock approaches Pryor's genius and Robin Williams is a genius of a different style altogether, but no one quite captures Pryor.

When I first heard a Pryor record, it was sometime around 1980 and it was "Wanted: Live in Concert". I used to listen to that album over and over again - never tiring of it - with friends. An English teacher in High School lent me a copy of "That Nigger's Crazy" with the promise that I wouldn't tell anyone where I got it. Such were the times, and they probably still are, that people are so afraid or offended by art that it can cost other's their jobs.

Some time around 1981 or 82, an uncle who had come to visit walked in on a friend and I listening to "Wanted: Live in Concert" in my bedroom. He came in, sat down, asked who we were listening to and listened and laughed with us through the entire album. He understood the jokes, but the irony was lost on him when he said, "That's one funny nigger". I was appalled by the man's statement then and still am today. Pryor, no doubt, would have written a routine about it.

Shawn saw some of Pryor's movies (later in his career) and heard some of the albums. I've tried to convey "Wanted" to her, but I do a disservice to it. In honor of Pryor's death, I might have to pull it out later today and play it for her. The NY Times has a good obit today.

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