Richard Pryor Tom Carson - Essay

Tom Carson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Bill Cosby may rent his smile to Ford while Dick Gregory retreats into sanctimonious oblivion, but Pryor is still a defiant, freakily incorrigible survivor—someone who's far too strung out on his own funky, rage-filled wavelength to even consider going respectable. His new, live double [album], Wanted (a reference to the legal and personal hassles that practically put him out of action last year), shows him to be top banana.

Though Pryor's raps are as unstructured as Steve Martin's, his high-flying, cheerfully scabrous style keeps the listener moving too fast to notice. Some introductory remarks to the audience segue into a routine on white obscenity versus black obscenity—Pryor's impersonations of white voices are deadly accurate, absolutely hilarious—that then turns into a skit about Andrew Young walking into the Oval Office with his cock in his hand ("'Scuse me, Mrs. Carter…." "Oh, that's all right."). This comic speeds almost effortlessly from sports to sex to life in the ghetto, his fast-paced spiel the only link between topics. In Richard Pryor's world, animals, inanimate objects and even the various parts of his body all have their own voices, which are locked in constant argument—each of them both threatening and scared to death at the same time.

Pryor's bias toward his black fans (which comes through more clearly here than on his studio LPs) is hardly something one can complain about, but I...

(The entire section is 496 words.)