If there was a word cloud extracted from this book, the biggest word in the cloud would be GENIUS. That’s the premise of the book: “Richard Pryor is /was a genius.” The writer duo–brothers David and Henry–want to make sure the point is made. They believe Richard Pryor is a genius deserving of a Hall of Fame spot and they hammer it. Pryor is compared to cultural icons such as Shakespeare and to the “true artist” Bob Dylan. Academics, fellow stand-up comedians (both black and white), Barbara Walters, Pauline Kael, SNL talent, New Yorker writer Hilton Als, Ebony journalists, Rolling Stone, the Rat Pack and on and on attest to Pryor’s genius, therefore supporting the writers’ theses.
The writing duo brothers second agenda is to shift the status of stand up comedy from entertainment to high art. The third point they make is that Pryor broke ground between white-black comedy. You can’t help but disagree with this stadium of people who attest to Pryor’s groundbreaking talent as well the second and third points of this book.
Some quotes from the book: “He is the freest black man America has ever had…he exercises the most plain, frank,honest, unintimidated speech we had in the 60s” ; “Instead of adapting to the white perspective, he forced white audiences to follow him into his own experiences.”
The reader not only hears about Pryor’s genius, but how people in the 80s threw money at him. Anything on stage, on TV, on film that had “Richard Pryor”i n it was going to be a success ( not true). We learn about his irrepressible charisma, his moods, his abuse of women and drugs, his scattered love life, his craving to be a movie star, his money and his self-loathing, his family, his lies.
Richard Pryor wanted “…people in black neighborhoods to drop what they were doing and come running to greet him, to love him for who he was and for what he did.”
A complicated character; a book that thoroughly drives home the author’s GENIUS point.