No Pryor Restraint: Life In Concert Richard Pryor CD/DVD Review
You won’t find Richard Pryor’s name on any musicians’ Who’s Who list. Yet Pryor’s compositions are as lyrical, moving and funny as anything ever set to music. Pyror’s music was the sound of the streets, expletive studded and often crude, but usually possessing a common truth or insight. Pryor’s “act” was a stream of consciousness outpouring that had no boundaries. Anyone and anything was fair game.
Pryor didn’t lecture. He told stories, character driven tales he often starred in and more often than not involved him getting his ass kicked. Pryor was also a gifted actor, and part of his appeal was watching him reenact scenes from his childhood. His tales were funny but poignant because Pryor was able to reach back into his memory banks and convey so well what it felt like on a child’s level to be whipped that’d you cringe in sympathy, perhaps recalling your own repressed memories of similar instances of your own.
Shout Factory has done a magnificent job of chronicling Pryor’s comedic life with a 7 CD/ 2 DVD boxed set with essays, set list from one of his shows, filmography discography and photos from his personal and public life never seen before.
All his classic bits are here, culled from live performances from 1966- 1992. The DVD’s include three complete shows: ’79’s Richard Pryor Live In Concert, ’82’s Live On The Sunset Strip and ’83’s Here And Now.
Live in Concert is perhaps the repository of Pryor’s most memorable bits. His Leon Spinks impersonation,(I knocks motherfuckers out!) his stuttering Chinese waiter, and his account of his father’s death while making love with his girlfriend, who Pryor says couldn’t give it way for years afterward because possible suitors thought her charms were fatal. He claims she came to him to apologize for killing his father and Pryor told her that if he had his choice of dying by getting hit by a bus or in the act of making love, guess which line he’d choose to be in? “And it’s a mighty long line too,” he quipped.
As you delve through the material you’ll discover your own favorite Pryor moments, stuff so ingrained in comedy culture you’d forgotten who the originator was ’till you rehear him telling it and find his anecdotes as fresh and as funny as they were when he first uttered them.
The accompanying book is littered with tributes and praise from his big time show biz admirers. But perhaps the most fitting tribute is the one proposed by Robin Williams based on the practice of retiring a legendary sports figure’s number. “To honor Jackie Robinson, no other ball player can wear number 42. I propose the same idea for Richard Pryor,” Williams says. “He never wore a number, but to honor him, let’s retire the word “motherfucker.”
Like Pryor himself, that’s hard to top.
By Grant Britt