Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#2,409. Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982) - The Films of Richard Pryor

Directed By: Joe Layton

Starring: Richard Pryor

Trivia: Celebrities and celebrated admirers who attended the concerts used to film this movie included Jim Brown, Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jackson Browne, Stevie Wonder, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson

Richard Pryor made some damn funny movies in the ‘70s and ‘80s, most of which I eventually caught on cable TV, including Car Wash, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings, Which Way Is Up?, Bustin Loose, and Some Kind of Hero. He even appeared in the first R-rated movie I ever saw in a theater: Stir Crazy, one of three he made with co-star Gene Wilder (the others being 1976’s Silver Streak and ‘89s See No Evil, Hear No Evil). I always knew Pryor got his start as a stand-up comedian, but for some reason I never bothered to watch his concert films. In fact, tonight’s viewing of Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip marks the first one I’ve ever seen.

So now I know I was missing out on something pretty special.

Directed by Joe Layton (with legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler handling the camerawork), Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip was shot at the Hollywood Palladium, and features footage from two consecutive 1981 shows. After kicking things off with a little sex talk and jokes about marriage (he had recently wed wife #4, Jennifer Lee Pryor), Pryor delves into such hot-button topics as racism and crime (including the 6 weeks he spent filming Stir Crazy at the Arizona State Penitentiary). In addition, there’s a great bit about his early days working in a mafia-owned club; anecdotes from his recent trip to Africa; a re-emergence of his character Mudbone (done at the audience’s behest), and, finally, some frank, very funny talk about his drug addiction and the 1980 fire that burned a large portion of his body (the result of a freebasing accident).

I toyed with the idea of throwing a few of his jokes into this write-up, but as I learned while watching Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip, nobody can deliver them like Pryor could. He was a funny, funny man, and his death in 2005 hit me kinda hard. At the time, I thought we lost a fine comedic actor. But clearly, he was also one of the best stand-up comedians ever to grace the stage.

1 comment:

Dell said...

He was far better as a stand-up comedian than as an actor, and his acting was pretty solid. I've seen this a number of times and it never gets old. Do yourself a favor and check out more of his work as a comic. A few years before Live on the Sunset Strip he did Richard Pryor: Live in Concert. A few years after he did Richard Pryor: Here and Now. Both are excellent. Some, if not all, of his concert albums can be found on Spotify. Sorry this turned into a commercial for Richard Pryor, but I love the man, warts and all.