December 1, 2013
By page 50 of his 1995 book Pryor Convictions, RICHARD PRYOR (1940–2005) has walked us through his childhood in his grandmother’s brothel; the time he watched his mother tear off his father’s scrotum during a fight; abandonment by his mom when he was 10; his rape, at six, by a teenaged pedophile; and his molestation by a Catholic school priest. After that, the story gets darker. The book is mind-blowing for the unassuming candor with which he writes — and for the fact that he lived long enough to write it at all. But mostly it’s amazing for how funny it is. In the words of Mudbone, Pryor’s ancient philosopher-wino alter ego, “Comedy — real comedy – isn’t only tellin’ jokes. It’s about telling the truth. Talking about life. Makin’ light of the hard times.” Listening to Pryor talk about his life should never have been funny, but it was; of his own speedball-induced attempt at self-immolation, Pryor joked: “You can really tell when you’ve fucked up because the doctor goes, ‘Holy shit! Why don’t we just get some coleslaw and serve this up?’” He was standup’s G.O.A.T. — 1979’s Live in Concert is the best standup film ever — and even in the mid-’90s, when multiple sclerosis had taken hold of him and he had to be lifted onto a Comedy Store stage for a late-night, mid-week performance, he was still the funniest man on the Sunset Strip.
HUMORISTS at HILOBROW: Michael O’Donoghue | Jemaine Clement | Andy Kaufman | Danny Kaye | George Ade | Jimmy Durante | Jack Benny | Aziz Ansari | Don Rickles | Godfrey Cambridge | Eric Idle | David Cross | Stewart Lee | Samuel Beckett | Jerry Lewis | Joanna Lumley | Jerome K. Jerome | Phil Silvers | Edward Lear | Tony Hancock | George Carlin | Stephen Colbert | Tina Fey | Keith Allen | Russell Brand | Michael Cera | Stan Laurel | Ricky Gervais | Gilda Radner | Larry David | Chris Pontius | Dave Chappelle | Jimmy Finlayson | Paul Reubens | Peter Sellers | Buster Keaton | Flann O’Brien | Lenny Bruce | Sacha Baron Cohen | Steve Coogan | PG Wodehouse | A.J. Liebling | Curly Howard | Fran Lebowitz | Charlie Kaufman | Stephen Merchant | Richard Pryor | James Thurber | Bill Hicks | ALSO: Comedy and the Death of God
READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).