Thursday, October 25, 2007

Richard Pryor, before and after

One of the most famous metamophoses in standup comedy was Richard Pryor’s transition from Cosby-style material to a more profane, incendiary style of truth-telling.

The dividing line can be located in history. Some people refer to it as Pryor’s "breakdown" onstage at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.

John A. and Dennis A. Williams, in their biography “If I Stop I'll Die," put the date as September 15, 1967. Pryor said something like "What am I doing here?" and walked off the stage.

Before that, Richard Pryor had appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Merv Griffin Show,” Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.”

But after that, Pryor moved to Berkeley, started hanging with a clique of black literary hipsters including Ishmael Reed and Claude Brown, and did a lot of cocaine. As the Williamses report: “He was so strung out that people didn't want him around their kids - and told him so."

The 2005 double-CD “Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years (1966-1974)” captures Richard Pryor, before and after.

Click here to hear a 4-minute piece from February 1966, recorded at San Francisco’s hungry i, famous for showcasing such comedians as Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Woody Allen and the Smothers Brothers.

Then click here for a piece from 1971, recorded at San Francisco’s Basin Street West.

In both monologues, Pryor recalls his childhood in Peoria, Ill.


Schottzie03 said...

How cool would it have been to be able to hang out at the Hungry-i in the mid to late 60's?

Hope everyone who was there realized how lucky they were.

memomachine said...


A little OT, but harking back to an earlier thread on George Carlin:


Warning! This is a conservative blog. View at own risk.

The commenter is not responsible for any spontaneous conversions to conservatism.

:) lol.

Undercover Black Man said...

Nice link, memo. "Malignant self-styled humanist" sounds about right.

And how about the stone silence when Carlin dropped his "getting-what's-coming-to'em" line?

That line would've provoked reflexive cheers on Bill Maher's show.

dez said...

^ Speaking of Maher's show, did you see the last episode where he helped throw out some rabble rousers? Good stuff.

God, I miss Richard Pryor :(

Undercover Black Man said...

^ I wanted to see Maher throw a punch!

dez said...

^I don't doubt he could have kicked asses if he needed to!

Dan Coyle said...

If Maher should punch anyone, it's Tucker Carlson or Tony Snow the next time they get on his show.

Russell said...

I cut and paste from the "Hotair" comments section below. This is the only guy posting there who begins to understand Carlin.

"You know, the thing about George is, I probably don’t agree with him on anything, but he has his own opinions, totally apart from traditional liberals or conservatives. At least he’s consistent. To paraphrase R. Lee Ermey, George has no bigotry. Everyone is equally worthless. He hates everyone, despises all. He’s a misanthrope. Which is cool, in a way. In fact, I’m quite certain the only human beings he likes are aborigines. He’s that hermit that in the 1800’s would go and live out in his hut and trap and fish and escape from society. He’s Thoreau with hostility. And I hate to admit it, but it’s kind of cool."


Russell said...

And I must say, Carlin's '92 HBO special (and turning point) was his pinnacle. Straddling the 2 George's, both hilarious AND acerbic. I still love to hear what he has to say but it's not nearly as funny as that one or the special that followed it.