Monday, December 12, 2005

On Richard Pryor

Earl Ofari Hutchinson in Counterpunch "Richard Pryor Wasn't Crazy"

"Only twice can I remember an entertainer agitating audience members to the point that they stormed out of a performance or sat stone silent. Richard Pryor was that entertainer. The first time he did it was at a concert I attended on New Year's Eve at a small club in Hollywood. Pryor cut loose with a bitter, expletive laced, diatribe on black and white relations. He aimed his sharpest barbs at the whites. He needled, hectored, and browbeat them for their racial sins. Midway through his rant, the predictable happened. A trickle of whites made a beeline for the door. Pryor, nonplussed by the sound of their marching feet, didn't relent from his verbal tongue lash. The trickle quickly turned into a stamped. Even then Pryor didn't miss a beat he continued to hurl barbs at their backs. [...] more

Seth Sandronsky in Counterpunch "Thank You, Richard Pryor"

"...Listening and re-listening to Pryor caused me, slowly but surely, to reflect critically on what I thought I knew about blacks and whites, and the over-all status quo. With each laugh, I grew more aware of the concept of race and class inequality.

Insanity, I thought. Though dimly aware of it at the time, I was beginning to question what black author James Baldwin termed the "lie of whiteness."

What? Whiteness is a racial identity built upon negation.

One is white or believes in whiteness because s/he self-identifies as being non-black, non-brown, non-red, and/or non-yellow. This is not an affirmation of one's humanity but a declaration of one's un-humanity.

Here then, is what I understood to be a major social truth Pryor wrestled with in his performances. Maybe this is why when I finally saw him he smiled without a sign of it in his eyes. [...]more

Mel Watkins in New York Times "Richard Pryor, Iconoclastic Comedian, Dies at 65"

"...In his autobiography, "Pryor Convictions," written in 1995 with Todd Gold, he allows Mudbone, the down-home raconteur who was perhaps Mr. Pryor's most unforgettable character and in many ways his alter ego, to comment, "the truth is gonna be funny, but it's gonna scare . . . folks."

In fact, Mr. Pryor's often harsh observations and explicit language did offend some audiences. But he insistently presented characters with little or no distortion. "A lie is profanity," he explained. "A lie is the worst thing in the world. Art is the ability to tell the truth, especially about oneself." [...]more


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