With little to nothing cooking with the Yanks this weekend, please indulge me in remembering Richard Pryor. (And if you aren't interested, that's cool, check back tomorrow.)
"I've been trying to figure out the analogies to what Richard Pryor meant, and the closest I can come to is Miles Davis," said Reginald Hudlin, the film and TV director and president of entertainment for Black Entertainment Television. "There's music before Miles Davis, and there's music after Miles Davis. And Richard Pryor is that same kind of person.
"Every new piece kind of transformed the game," Hudlin said. "He was a culturally transcendent hero. His influence is bigger than black comedy; it's bigger than comedy. He was a cultural giant."
"Comedy," [Pryor] said, "is when you are driving along and see a couple of dudes and one is in trouble with the others and he's trying to talk his way out of it. You say, 'Oh boy, they got him,' and you laugh. I cannot tell jokes. My comedy is not comedy as society has defined it."
On his mid-career change of direction:
"I made a lot of money being Bill Cosby," he recalled, "but I was hiding my personality. I just wanted to be in show business so bad I didn't care how. It started bothering me - I was being a robot comic, repeating the same lines, getting the same laughs for the same jokes. The repetition was killing me."
..."There was a world of junkies and winos, pool hustlers and prostitutes, women and family screaming inside my head, trying to be heard. The longer I kept them bottled up, the harder they tried to escape. The pressure built till I went nuts."
I like Watkins' take on Pryor's masterpiece:
Mr. Pryor probably reached the pinnacle of his career in 1979 with his first concert film, "Richard Pryor, Live in Concert," a movie, filmed during an appearance in Long Beach, Calif., that more than a quarter of a century later remains the standard by which other movies of live comedy performances are judged.
The film, which was to inspire others to make their own comic performance movies, caught Mr. Pryor at peak form. He reflected often about his own tumultuous life, with monologues about a domestic quarrel in which he shot his wife's car, the death of his pet monkeys and a near-fatal heart attack, which ended with: "I woke up in the ambulance, right? And there was nothin' but white people starin' at me. I say . . . I done died and wound up in the wrong heaven. Now I gotta listen to Lawrence Welk the rest of my days."
I'm sure we'll see a bunch of Pryor's movies, and hopefully, "Live in Concert" pop up on cable in the coming weeks and months.