Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip


Whenever I see Richard Pryor, the first thing I think of is Lenny Bruce. Oh, man, the persecution, the agony that man went through for routines that were so tame, so bland by today’s standards! With Pryor, every other sentence contains the word motherfucker, which Lenny didn’t even try to use. Well, it’s a sad world, but in some ways it gets better with time. His best bits here:

He and Gene Wilder made a movie called Stir Crazy, at the Arizona State Penitentiary. Richard points out that 80% of the inmates were black, which was weird, because “there are no black folks in Arizona.” Then he remembers his first impression, of all these lovely brothers locked up. After he talked to a few of them, he said “Thank God for penitentiaries!” Those motherfuckers were scary. He asks one of them, “Why did you have to kill the whole family?” Guy shrugs. “They was home.”

But the best part is at the last, where he riffs on his famous self-immolation, and his addiction. “Ten million people freebasin’, and I’m the motherfucker who burns.” It takes real genius to take the story of how you very badly burned yourself, and make it not only funny, but harrowing, when you think of the pain involved. He observes that on the burn ward, there was not black or white people. There was just burned up people.