Movie Review: Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip


The funniest man in the world.

Dennis suggests Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip (in Comedy). When Pryor died, I was thoroughly annoyed by both the ghoul squad of publicity-hungry lesser talents (like I cared what Katt Williams, Dane Cook, or any member of the Wayans family had to say about the man) and the tongue-cluckers in the media who made sure to thread the word ‘excess’ into every televised or written obituary. Richard Pryor was the funniest man who ever lived. Period. And, in his lifelong monologue, he summed up, illuminated, and made resonant more about the human condition than any of those blathering wannbes and never-wases could ever hope to. I bought his album That Nigger’s Crazy on vinyl when I was about twelve after seeing Pryor on Saturday Night Live. I snuck it into my house, hid it from my parents (they just wouldn’t have understood; he was outside of their sphere of experience), and played it low, my laughs choked off in the desire to not draw attention to myself…and little suburban white boy had his world changed that day. Live on the Sunset Strip is older Richard, wiser Richard, scarred Richard. Some people prefer the previous concert film Richard Pryor Live, and I can see their point, but this is the one that really gets to me. From physical comedy (the impressions of animals he saw in Africa), to long character pieces (some people think his long ‘Mudbone’ routine drags things to a halt…they are wrong), to sex (the Playboy bunny who gets turned on when he does his little kid voice), to his impossible-to-make-up life (childhood beatings, women, drugs, and, of course, fire), there is never a moment that is not spellbinding, never a moment when I do not stand in awe of the man’s skills, and the man himself. I could watch his sublime reenactment (people often overlook the man’s gift for subtle characterization) of his confrontation (about his drug use) with ultimate tough guy pal Jim Brown (“what you gonna do?”) and his realization about his own racial consciousness (and a particular word) while on that trip to Africa endlessly; each piece makes me laugh until they knock my breath out of me, and make tears of, yeah, awe well up in my eyes. This is eighty minutes of the art of comedy at its highest level. The world would be different, and far less funny, had Pryor not been here. We shall not see his like again. (And to those who would hold him up as a ‘bad example’, I say, in the man’s name “Fuck you, motherfucker.”)

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 6:19 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. They don’t fuck you cause you LIKE it! They fuck you just to see the look on your face!

    So funny.

  2. Thanks for reading, Jeremy.
    I don’t remember being as depressed as when I read Gene Wilder’s autobiography and hearing him say that he and Pryor were never really good friends. (He also de-mystifies his relationship with Gilda…double depression.)

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