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Case Number 05684: Small Claims Court

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Richard Pryor: I Ain't Dead Yet, #*%$#@!!

Paramount // 2004 // 42 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Evans (Retired) // November 26th, 2004

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All Rise...

Well, Judge Steve Evans ain't dead yet either, #*%$#@, so back the !$#@ *% off.

The Charge

Comedian Richard Pryor pioneered racial humor.

The Case

Contemporary stand-up comics reflect on the career and troubled life of comedy legend Richard Pryor, now living with multiple sclerosis.

Cedric the Entertainer, Dave Chappelle, Margaret Cho, Jamie Foxx, Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Harvey, Denis Leary, Chris Rock, Robin Williams and other comedians discuss how Pryor's controversial comedy influenced their own work and brought razor sharp truth to bear on race relations in the United States. Clips of Pryor's concert films and movies from his heyday in the late 1970s are interspersed to illustrate Pryor's lingering impact. Originally broadcast on Comedy Central, this fleeting, 42-minute special devotes far too much time to the ruminations of other comedians. It offers maddeningly brief glimpses of Pryor in his glory days, when he left audiences convulsing with laughter with a potent mix of racial (and at times racist) humor, tempered by an observant eye on societal problems. Pryor also smothered his routines in a fusillade of profanity so outrageous that it ceased to be shocking and became, instead, a kind of gutter poetry that is the unmistakable antecedent of hip-hop. Comedians interviewed for this special acknowledge as much themselves. His seventh wife also shares her thoughts on the man and myth that is Pryor.

The funnyman derailed his career and nearly killed himself in a 1980 freebasing accident that left him with third-degree burns over most of his body. It was the first time most people had heard of crack cocaine. Within a year, he made the mishap part of his comedy routine, as well as some of the more shocking instances of domestic violence from his seven marriages. He made fun of white people. He made fun of black people. Pryor jabbed at the frequent stupidity of humanity, yet no one was more susceptible to his acid tongue than himself. He told of running down the street on fire after blowing up a volatile mixture of crack and ether, or stunned audiences with the tale of shooting his own car as his wife tried to drive away. Pryor managed to take the wreckage of his life and turn it into the stuff of high hilarity, then dared his audience not to laugh. He understands innately that comedy can reveal greater truths about ourselves than any sobering 12-step program.

Though Pryor hasn't led a particularly happy life, his travails became some of the funniest stories that an audience will witness. Too bad there's so little of him on display on this DVD.

The production originally aired on television in November 2003. Video and audio quality are adequate, although no effort has been made to clean up source materials from Pryor's live shows, now more than 20 years old. Scene selections are absent from the main menu, probably owing to such a short running time. The only way to skip through the material is to advance the chapter stops chronologically with the remote control.

Only an obsessive Pryor fan will feel the need to pony up for this disc. At best, this offering from Comedy Central may serve to whet the appetite for some of Pryor's concert films, all of which are available on DVD, or seek out his old comedy records. Any of these products offer better value than this hastily produced homage.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 50

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 42 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Biographical
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• 40 minutes of additional interviews and commentary with guest comedians.


• Richard Pryor Official Site

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