Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Richard Pryor

This is a picture of Richard Pryor and me.

What you don't see is when his face lit up when I came into his house.

I thought, "I can die now."

People forget how big, how important, he was. Back in the day if you wanted to be on TV there was Johnny Carson and that was pretty much it. Well, the Ed Sullivan Show way back when but let's talk about Carson.  You had to be clean as a whistle to get on the Tonight Show.

Richard Pryor changed that.

He made words you wouldn't say to your mother funny as all get out. Oh you still had to be clean to be on the Tonight Show but the times they were a changing.

Comedians began talking differently, more like everyday people, because of him.

In clubs, on cable, on things like Def Comedy Jam, things like Comedy Central. Folks like Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle, Kevin Hart, picked up on that. Keegan-Michael Key, of Key and Peele, as President Obama's Anger Translator, Luthor, reminded me of Richard.

Ask them, I'll bet they all genuflect to Mr. Pryor.

He also made being black funny as all get out.

His bit on going to Africa and seeing black people everywhere and finding out that they could @#%& up your luggage at the airport just like white people was priceless. And funny.

He was the first comedian that I went to a movie theater to see him do stand up. His Richard Pryor: Live On The Sunset Strip was on the big screen. I barely got out of there alive, I laughed so hard.

When I interviewed him he came out on one of those scooters. It was hard for him to get around. Richard had a lot of miles on his odometer and I don't mean just age.

He spoke freely onstage about his heart attack and about setting himself on fire freebasing. I laughed again when he told the story of waking up in the hospital with an intern waving away smoke coming off of him and saying, "Hey Rich. Can I have this last autograph?"

That's the mileage I'm talking about.

Did you know he helped write Blazing Saddles? Did you know he won five Grammy Awards? There's more.

Also keep in mind Richard Pryor paved the way for one of the biggest comedians ever.

Eddie Murphy.

Eddie was a rock star stand up. If you only know him as Doctor Doolittle, listen up. He tore this country up, all dressed in leather, with great jokes, a great presence, and great impersonations.

James Brown, anyone?

No Richard, no Eddie.

After Eddie had become hugely popular he cast the legend in his movie, Harlem Nights.

Sometimes when you see the older version of someone, you forget what they were when they were younger. Richard was mellower when we met but I remember him being this huge bonfire of talent. He was dangerous and I mean that in a good and funny way.

Watch 'Word Association' with Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live (It's on Youtube) and you'll see what I'm talking about.

The great Richard Pryor.

Rolling Stone named him the greatest stand up. Ever.

Jerry Seinfeld called him, "the Picasso of our profession."

When we were done I shook his hand and left knowing I had met one of the Mount Rushmore guys.

Richard Pryor passed on December 10, 2005.


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