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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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