The cost of genius.
There is no doubt that Richard Pryor was a genius when it came to comedy. He literally changed the face of stand up and what was possible in that world. His legacy is still felt to this day in the works of Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Katt Williams and hell, just about most famous comedians.
Damon Wayans said at a tribute show “Richard Pryor defined the game of stand-up comedy and comedy itself, and if you haven’t stole from Richard, then you’re probably not that funny.”
His physical comedy is like a ballet between him, his material and the audience.
The genius is documented here in this warts and all film that doesn’t shy away from the more difficult side of the late (or even early) comedian’s life.
Charting his journey with an early appearance on Johnny Carson’s show all the way to his death in 2005, we get to see his many wives, successes, failures and addictions through the eyes of friends and family.
When someone is that talented it often goes hand in hand that they may very well be a tortured soul. It is said that many artists self-medicate in one-way or another. If you feel so much being a sensitive, sometimes there has to be a way to escape that intensity. It’s just a fact that certain souls need an outlet to decompress. Look at the history, artists like to experiment and it definitely informs their work, unfortunately it sometimes destroys them.
Richard Pryor famously used his experiences in his routines and this is one of the things about great stand- ups, they lay themselves bare, at least when it come to the stage. It is why we love them. Comedians can say anything and the great ones do and do it well.
Marina Zenovich directs this documentary that, while not being as comprehensive and definitive as it could be, still gives us some interesting talking heads (Robin Williams, Paul Mooney, Whoopi Goldberg, Mel Brooks amongst them) and informs us a little bit more about this great man.
To understand the affect Richard Pryor has had on the world of comedy this quote by the brilliant Dave Chappelle sums up his influence:
“Richard Pryor, undisputed champion of the world, greatest of all times, case closed, period, exclamation point.”