Sunday, December 11, 2005
Richard Pryor, R. I. P.
I haven't seen this mentioned in the few obituaries I've read, but the first time I ever saw Richard Pryor was on a TV series called The Kraft Summer Music Hall in 1966. Judy and I had been married for one year, and we were planning to move from Denton, where I was attending North Texas State University, to Austin, where I planned to start work on my doctorate. We had a little black and white TV set, and we watched the Kraft show every week. It was hosted by John Davidson, who was at least as square as we were. Maybe even more square. But on that show were two guys we thought were hilarious, Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Who would ever have guessed that those two would become icons of the hip? (Okay, sure, Carlin was already playing the hippy-dippy mailman.) We followed their careers after that and tried to see them on TV and in the movies when we could or buy their recordings. Over the years they developed into terrific comedians and hilariously funny but entirely serious commentators on life in this country. I never got to see either of them in person, though I've seen Pryor's concert films, and I've seen Carlin's performances for HBO. Though Pryor hasn't performed recently because of his MS, his death still leaves a big hole. Time to go listen to This Nigger's Crazy again, I guess. So long, Richard.