Once again I have been honored to write Humor Mill magazine’s annual tribute to the true King of Comedy, the great and irreplaceable, Richard Pryor. I was fortunate to have been in his presence twice in my life. I saw the living legend as a fan at the Terrace Theatre in Long Beach, California during his 1978 tour when he taped “Richard Pryor: Live in Concert”. I was about 35 at the time and seeing him work the stage in person remains one of my life’s highlights. The next time I experienced Richard was in his declining years, when muscular dystrophy left him a shell of his former self and wheel chair dependent. It was at the Comedy Store and this time I was introduced to him as a “young” comedian and got to shake his fragile hand; another unforgettable moment. He performed that night and I, like everyone in attendant viewed it with a mixture of awe and sorrow. Like Muhammad Ali the fiery personality that was his trademark was gone, but you could still see the twinkle lurking in the eyes that let you know the genius was still in the house.
Since his passing on December 10, 2005 many comedians have expressed what he meant to them; mainly male comedians. In my previous tributes I concentrated on that obvious choice as well. This year I will not. After co-writing the book “Comediennes: Laugh Be a Lady” with my wife, Tuezdae Littleton, I discovered the effect Richard had on this often ignored group. Interestingly enough Richard was extremely popular with women and was voted the Sexiest Male Star of the 1970s. And if you believe that last part you also probably believe I was 35 years old in 1978. Anyway, this is the year of the woman so let’s see what the ladies have to say about Richard Pryor.
Richard Pryor will always be THE best stand-up comedian of all time. His wit, timing and courage are what influenced many comics of all different races and nationalities. If you don’t believe it, just check out the roast of Richard Pryor and see the folks on the dais. Richard was simply the best.
What I love about Richard Pryor is his unabashed honesty. He told truths that black men today still wouldn’t admit, and was a mainstream act. I also love the fact that no topic was off limits to him, and his storytelling was something you can’t teach. Either you have it, or you don’t, and Richard HAD IT! Also, the way he used language was pure poetry. Nothing he said was gratuitous or for shock value. He was the master, which is why in every comedy list of who is the best comedian of all time, Richard is consistently in the top 2. It was apparent to everyone that Richard Pryor was put on this planet to be a comedian, and the world is a lot funnier because of him.
Pryor is my favorite comedian. I was helping out at a record shop when his “Craps” album was released. I pulled people in off the street to listen to it. I still practically know it by heart. When my son was in high school he used to play it every night before he went to sleep like it was a lullaby. Pryor was a comedic genius, an inspiration who had the guts to say what so many of us thought. I’m still missing him.
Richard Pryor is and probably will always be one of the greatest comedians to ever step behind the Mic.(along with Carlin, Murphy and Cosby). Not only for his unique, impeccable style in delivering a punch line, but for his transparency, & authenticity. In my opinion, it took a tremendous amount of courage for him to step on stage, & transcends HIS truth, HIS pain & tragedies into iconic hilarity. I and my fellow elementary school mates would rush to my house after school, sneak into my mom’s album collection, and listen to “That Nigga is Crazy”, Was it Something I Said?” Each one of us would take turns lip syncing each joke to perfection. Little did I know that Mr.Pryor was planting the seed which ultimately led me into a successful comedic television & stage career. I will forever cherish one of the highlights of my life, the night I met him at the Comedy Store, & shared the stage with him! Richard Pryor is synonymous with. “Pure Genius”.
~ Ms. Ajai Sanders
I don’t know what drew me to Richard Pryor in my life. I just know that in my life he’s always been there and he’s always felt like a part of me. I can remember when we used to sit around what they used to call a hi-fi; that you used to could play albums on. You had to turn it on. It had to warm up and at the bottom of the hi-fi was a little red light. I used to lie on the floor and put my eye up to the red light and go into the light and in my mind I pretended like it was a seedy comedy club. I would lay there with my eye pressed against that light with Richard Pryor on the turntable and pretend like I was in this seedy, red lit comedy club. I remember doing that when I was young not knowing that that was my future. It’s something that’s just inbred in you subconsciously before you even know it. Richard could paint a picture with his words and his voice like Picasso could paint a portrait. He could transport you and take you there. That’s what I try to do with my comedy. I try to transport you and see things through my eyes. He is, was and will always be the greatest American comedian in my lifetime. I miss him and there will never be another. Sincerely yours, Richard.
Growing up in the 70’s I don’t really remember a time without Richard Pryor. Even at a tender age I understood his gift of humor & enjoyed what he gave us. I felt I had that same talent, but I feared the truths that came along with it. So like many that have taken the stage I studied him – The Master. Richard had so many stories that gave us glimpses of the life he’d lived, but why were we able to laugh? That’s the beauty of Richard Pryor a man on a mission to leave the world laughing.
For me, every time I hear, see or speak the name “Richard Pryor” my heart skips a beat, partly because he was someone I actually worked for and at the time I didn’t realize the magnitude of his brilliance. When I think of Richard (I only use his first name because I take poetic license since he came along expressly in my generation) I think of a comic who could and would bring a house down on words that had never been rehearsed. A spot on comic, I salute you and will always remember the man who in my opinion changed the face of comedy.
Sylvia Traymore Morrison
Richard Pryor used almost every art form in his art of comedy. He painted brilliant pictures for us to see. He used drama when he gave a voice to inanimate objects. Y’all remember the pipe calling Richard. And wasn’t Mudbone a great actor? Richard Pryor did something wonderful. He was the muse that has changed comedy forever. For me, he gave me comedy that I was able to relate to and he gave me a sense of my own comic voice; something that would make me understand what was funny about me and then he gave me the balls to think I was funny enough to try it. Amen. I love me some Richard Pryor.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you, ladies and thank you Mr. and Mrs. Pryor for meeting and giving the world the gift of your son, Richard.
Darryl Littleton is a four time published author and columnist for Humor Mill magazine. He’s an accomplished stand-up comedian, television and film producer and historian. His latest book “Comediennes: Laugh Be a Lady” is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and all fine book outlets. You can visit him at www.ccomedytime.com