December 15, 2005 – Vol. 41, No. 18

Richard Pryor: It was something he said

Howard Manly

Even in death, its hard not to laugh with Richard Pryor.

“If you think we goin’ to bury you with all them diamonds…”

You know the last lines of that eulogy from the good reverend.

In fact, Pryor had lines that changed American dialogue.

“I am reaching into wallet to get my driver’s license,’’ he once said about the police in Long Beach, California.

We all know what that was about — Pryor didn’t want to be “no #$@^ accident.”

That was in the early seventies, a time when the civil rights movement had achieved legal and political equality but blacks and whites were forging a new, more open relationship.

At least with Pryor it was funny.

“Thirty-five dollars? And my baby didn’t…Boy, you must be rich. Girl, go wake up your mama.”

It was those core differences on how we lived and dated and partied and coped that somehow, Pryor, a prophet, captured in timeless stand-up comedy routines.

Like the one where an alien lands in a black neighborhood. “You got to give up the flying saucer, baby,.. That’s Mr. Gilmour’s property.”

To this day, mention the words “little tiny baby feet,” and see what happens.

Pryor’s death last weekend triggered an outpouring of reaction and expressions of true love and respect.

“I wish that every new and young comedian would understand what Richard was about and not confuse his genius with his language usage,” said comedian Bill Cosby.

Comedian Bob Newhart went a step further. Pryor “was the single most seminal, comedic influence in the last 50 years. It was so appropriate that he received the inaugural Mark Twain prize, as they both did the same thing. Mark Twain showed us what it was like on the frontier and living on the Mississippi and what it was like living at the turn of the century, and Richard Pryor showed us what it w as like to live in the inner city. His concepts are so hysterically funny and unique.”

Born Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor in Peoria, Illinois, on Dec. 1, 1940, the comedian had long suffered from health problems at the time of his death. In addition to his multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 1986, he suffered a massive heart attack and underwent triple-bypass surgery in 1990.

Pryor was arguably the biggest name in stand-up comedy in the seventies, earning Grammy Awards for his comedy album. In addition to appearances in almost 40 films, including “The Toy,” “Lady Sings the Blues,” “Harlem Nights,” “Which Way is Up” and “Blue Collar” and “Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars and Motor Kings,” Pryor also was part of he team that created the script for the Mel Brooks comedy, “Blazing Saddles.”

Not all was rosy in Pryor’s life. His well-know abuse of cocaine came to a head in 1980 when he caught fire while free-basing. But even that become fodder for his comedy.

Here are a few edited excerpts from a Pryor’s stand-up routines:

I hate when white people be calling Leon Spinks dumb, too. Right! “Don’t you think he’s dumb? My mind immediately says, “What is this #$%@*&% goin’ think about me if I agree with him? I mean, Spinks may not articulate the language, but it ain’t his anyway…. Like to see how you do in Zaire….”

Junkie: “I’m sick pops. Can you help me? My mind thinkin’ about @#&$ I don’t want to think about. I can’t stop the @!(*&%$#, baby. Movin’ too fast for the kid. Tell me some of ah’ ‘dem ole lies o’ yours and make me stop thinkin’ about the truth… Could you help me?

Wino: Yea. I’m goin’ hep you, boy. Cause I believe you got potential. That’s right! You don’t know how to deal with the white man, that’s yo’ problem. I know how to deal with ‘em. That’s right. That’s why I’m in the position I’m in today.

Our text for Today… Let us turn our text to… da Book of Wonder, where it say, “a boy, was born, in Hard Time, Miss’sippi. Surrounded by fo’ walls… that was not pretty. His parents — that’s two peoples — give him love, and affection. Just to keep him strong. … movin’ in the right direction! Give him just enough! I said, just enough! For the Ci-ty!

You go down there lookin’ for justice, and that’s what you find, Just-Us.

Police live in yall’s neighborhood…”Hello, officer Timson, going bowling tonight? Yes, ah, nice Pinto you have ha-ha-ha.” (Blacks) don’t know ‘em like that. See white folks get a ticket they pull over…”Hey officer, yes, glad to be of help…cheerio!” (Blacks) got to be talkin’ ‘bout, “I’m reaching into my pocket for my license, ‘cause I don’t want to be no $%#@&&*#@ accident.




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