Saturday, December 1, 2018

Vital Viewing (Comic Minds Edition)

Comedian Richard Pryor was born on this day in 1940 (he died in 2005.) Here he is in 1973 talking to actor James Earl Jones (The Great White Hope), at the time host of Black Omnibus, a hybrid interview-variety show that showcased African-American talent:

 Jones, the future booming voice of both CNN and Darth Vader, comes across as kind of soft-spoken here, doesn't he? He seems to have genuine respect and admiration for his guest. And I'm sure Pryor respected and admired him right back, but since he was, as I said, a comedian, there must have been someone in a similar line of work that he respected and admired even more. In fact, he you listened carefully to the above clip, he did make mention of...

...Jerry Lewis. You might recall that when he died last year, I wrote I was working on an essay on Lewis. Well, I hope to write it someday, but as he's such a complex figure, I just don't have the time right now to adequately present the man in all his contradictions. So at least allow me this one small offering from the 1960s when both Lewis and Pryor were guests on Merv Griffin's talk show (also featured are the Everly Brothers, who apparently have gone through a Beatlesque makeover, and Arthur Treacher, Merv's announcer/sidekick, formerly an actor who, when he wasn't dancing with Shirley Temple, specialized in playing butlers, including P.G. Wodehouse's character Jeeves):

 As you might have noticed, they smoked quite a bit on TV back in those days, and, man, did you see that cigarette dangling from Treacher's mouth when he shook Pryor's hand? Had he stood any closer to the young comedian, he might have set him...well, let's not go there.

I've shown Pryor when he was on stage with other people, but he was at his absolute best when it was just him and an audience (the video is a little out of sync with the audio, but even so, he's still at his best):

I bet even a mafioso would find the above clip funny. 

And who knows? Maybe that was the attraction.

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