Imagine three junior-high aged boys — all of the extremely white, suburban variety — locked in one of their bedrooms, conspiratorially huddled around … a record player.
We — Uncle Crappy, Juan and Carolina Boy — had come across a copy of Richard Pryor’s Wanted. None of us were certain that our mothers would approve, so this was one of those things that we held as a secret from the parents.
And we listened over and over and over. We came to know Pryor as Rich. Carolina Boy had the entire double album memorized, and Juan and I were close behind:
“Jim Brown say, ‘Anything outside the facemask belong to you. Anything inside the facemask belong to me.'” His dogs. Shooting the car.
Subversive. Profane — at least we imagined that would be the take of our mothers. Endlessly, screamingly funny. We were young, teenaged boys, each with a typically rebellious nature, and we listened over and over and over.
I also remember seeing the Sunset Strip concert film with my mom and dad a few years later. Rich was a little more thoughtful, after the suicide attempt and the trip to Africa that convinced him to strike the n-word from his routines — and his everyday vocabulary — forever. But he wasn’t any less funny. And I was happy to learn that my folks laughed as hard as I did at every “motherfucker” in the film.
There are other comedians I discovered before Rich. Dr. History and I found a bunch of old Cosby standup albums, and their stories about VW Beetles and the invention of basketball. Steve Martin: “How many times have I taken the Lord’s name in vain? A million six? Jesus Chri…” Robin Williams and the William Morris Child Care Center.
Originals all. But none more so than Richard Pryor.