ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, JUNE 6, 2013
By Steve Newton
Nowadays it seems like I get the majority of my humour from animation and cartoons—or animated cartoons, if you will. Archer, Family Guy, Robot Chicken, that trustry standby The Simpsons—there’s no shortage of chortle-inducing material out there if you’re wealthy enough to afford cable.
But back in the day I used to get my laughs directly from the mind of a living, breathing chuckle-machine by the name of Richard Pryor. In the late ’70s and early ’80s I’d spend countless hours between Blue Oyster Cult albums listening to his live routine via LPs like Wanted: Richard Pryor-Live in Concert and Live on the Sunset Strip. It was just the raw, unadultered truth in his voice that won me over. He was the most hilarious human I’d ever heard–and still is.
If you’re a Pryor freak like me you should definitely be aware that this Tuesday (June 11) will see the release of No Pryor Restraint: Life in Concert on the Shout! Factory label. It’s a seven-CD, two-DVD boxed set that delivers over 12 hours of primo Pryor spanning 1966 to 1992. It includes all that funny shit—like “Niggers vs. the Police”, “Chinese Food”, and “Mudbone—Little Feets”—that had my ribs aching three decades ago, plus nearly two hours of previously unreleased standup performances and rare recordings from the Pryor archives.
His comic genius is best displayed on the collection’s three concert films, Richard Pryor—Live in Concert (1979), Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip (’82), and Richard Pryor…Here and Now (’83).
The set comes with a 60-page book that tells the story of Pryor’s life and career, and includes quotes from other comedy greats. Bob Newhart says it best:
“The first time I heard Richard Pryor, I knew he would be a major force in the world of comedy.
“These lost tapes are fascinating. You are listening to a young, insecure and polite Richard Pryor evolve into a seasoned, confident and irreverent pro who takes you into his X-rated, bawly life in Peoria, Illinois.
“It is especially fitting that Richard was the first recipient of the Mark Twain Prize. For me, ‘Mudbone’ transcends comedy. It depicts African-Americana in the 20th century, just as Mark Twain depicted life on the Mississipppi in the 19th century. Both are classic.”