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Comedy – Richard Pryor – Funerals & Cocaine & Whippings By Grandma & Hunting


In 1963, Pryor moved to New York City and began performing regularly in clubs alongside performers such as Bob Dylan and Woody Allen….where on one of his first nights….he opened for singer and pianist Nina Simone at New York’s Village Gate. Simone recalls Pryor’s bout of performance anxiety as follows….”He shook like he had malaria….he was so nervous…..I couldn’t bear to watch him shiver….so I put my arms around him there in the dark and rocked him like a baby until he calmed down. The next night was the same, and the next, and I rocked him each time.

Inspired by Bill Cosby….Pryor began as a middlebrow comic….with material far less controversial than what was to come….for soon he would begin appearing regularly on television variety shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.  His popularity led to success as a comic in Las Vegas. The first five tracks on the 2005 compilation CD Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years (1966–1974)….recorded in 1966 and 1967….capture Pryor in this period.  In September 1967, Pryor had what he described in his autobiography Pryor Convictions (1995) as an “epiphany”….for as he walked onto the stage at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas (with Dean Martin in the audience)….looked at the sold-out crowd and exclaimed over the microphone….”What the fuck am I doing here!?”….and walked off the stage.  Afterward, Pryor began working profanity into his act….including the word nigger. His first comedy recording, the eponymous 1968 debut release on the Dove/Reprise label….captures this particular period by tracking the evolution of Pryor’s routine. Around this time, his parents died—his mother in 1967 and his father in 1968.


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