DID YOU READ

Was Richard Pryor the greatest comedian of all time?

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I cannot wait to see the new Richard Pryor documentary, authorized by his estate. Jennifer Lee Pryor, Richard’s widow, is listed as a producer on the upcoming documentary “Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic,” which will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in mid-April. The fact that Pryor’s ex-wife is listed a producer on the project lends authenticity to the narrative of one of the most compelling figures in entertainment. When Richard Pryor died in 2005 at the young age of 65 of complications due to multiple sclerosis, he was regarded as probably the most influential American comedian of all time. As a monologist, he rivaled Mark Twain. It was the same self-destructive impluses that fueled his brilliant comedic imagination that led to his untimely demise.

Born on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois Richard Pryor’s career arc traversed the Civil Rights revolution and its aftermath. His influence in comedy – particularly during the 70s and 80s, where he was at the height of his powers — altered the DNA of comedy, at home and abroad. “It was essentially comedy without jokes – re-enactments of common human exchanges that not only mirrored the pretensions of the characters portrayed but also subtly revealed the minor triumphs that allowed them to endure and even prevail over the bleak realities of everyday living,” wrote Mel Watkins in his obituary in The New York Times. “He was brilliant at telling stories, and some people are brilliant at losing themselves,” comedian Paul Mooney, his collaborator for many years, told NPR. “That’s why Richard could play characters.”

Raised in a brothel and bars run by his grandmother, addicted for most of his adult life to cocaine, Pryor, who attained fabulous wealth in the United States during the post-Civil Rights era, lived both the American nightmare as well as the American Dream. His life served as rich soil in which he mined some of his most brilliant routines, dealing with everything from racism and inequality to drug addiction and fame. He excelled at creating hyper-realistic characters in the key of life — hustlers from black folklore to network bosses. Pryor was a pioneer of observational comedy, visiting clubs and bars with Mooney, capturing the body movements and influections as well as the stories that make up America. He began on the chitlin’ circuit — where the humor was blue — venturing afterwards to New York City, to pursue fame and fortune. In the 60s, Pryor modeled his career after Bill Cosby, who worked clean. Pryor’s comedic breakthrough came when he abandoned the clean sets of his idol and ventured into the dark side, expressing that zone of life with an organic, gritty humor. It was a side of life he intimately understood. By the 1970s Pryor had come into his comic persona — essentially himself — and ushered in a new era of American comedy, wholly without artifice and pretense.

As a dramatic actor Richard Pryor was immensely underrated. It is one of the great tragedies of American film that Pryor never did more dramas, never fully showed us his range as a performer. Comedically, Pryor was no stranger to Emmy’s, which he won for his collaboration with Lilly Tomlin, as well as the Grammy for Best Comedic Recording in 1974. His his supporting role in 1972’s Lady Sings the Blues, however, earned critical support of his dramatic ambitions. But it was his breakout dramatic performance in Paul Schrader’s Blue Collar in 1978, which unfortunately never won an Oscar nod or box office appreciation, that proved that Richard Pryor could do anything. Playing Zeke, a frustrated Detroit autoworker surviving paycheck-to-paycheck, caught between a corporation and a corrupt union, Pryor stars alongside Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto in the logical dramatic extension of his realistic and gritty view of life. It is testament to the brilliance of Richard Pryor that he was able, almost alchemically, to transform so much pain into such timeless humor.

If this documentary captures even a fraction of the complexity of this man then it is more than worth the price of admission.

Are you interested in seeing “Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic”? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.