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Richard Pryor: The Life and Legacy of a ''Crazy'' Black Man

Overview

Richard Pryor is an American icon whose name evokes irreverent humor, social critique, and a perplexing degree of self-agonized genius. This anthology captures in one volume the spirit, zest, and cultural impact of Pryor's complex artistry. Audrey Thomas McCluskey has assembled insightful essays from a broad range of scholars, social critics, writers, filmmakers, and other established and emerging commentators on American culture. Although a celebration of Pryor's genius, the book approaches the subject with a ...

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Overview

Richard Pryor is an American icon whose name evokes irreverent humor, social critique, and a perplexing degree of self-agonized genius. This anthology captures in one volume the spirit, zest, and cultural impact of Pryor's complex artistry. Audrey Thomas McCluskey has assembled insightful essays from a broad range of scholars, social critics, writers, filmmakers, and other established and emerging commentators on American culture. Although a celebration of Pryor's genius, the book approaches the subject with a critical sensibility that provides insight into his work to reveal how he simultaneously highlighted and embodied prominent narratives of race, gender, and social conditions in America in ways that continue to enlighten and entertain.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

"McClusky's contributions and other essays, specifically those by David Felton and Keith Harris, invite discussion on the ways Pryor transformed American comic style.... Recommended." —Choice, March 2009

Bloom

"... presents a variety of new and historical perspectives from scholars, filmmakers, and writers that yield insight into the comedian's origins, how he negotiated the difficult straits of the entertainment business, and what his work ultimately signified...." —Bloom

Record Collector

"McClusky's Life & Legacy Of... gathers together 20 essays and features on Pryor, ranging from retrospective cultural criticism, contemporary reviews and interviews and biographical features. Each tries to pinpoint exactly what made Pryor so important..." —Record Collector, March 2009

G. R. Butters Jr.

Pryor (1940-2005) was arguably one of the most influential American comedians of the 20th century. This collection attempts to give him his due by considering the ways in which he influenced not only comedy but also US television and entertainment as political statement. Divided into four sections--"New Essays," "Biography," "Reviews," and "Social and Cultural Criticism"--the essays vary in length and quality. McCluskey (Indiana Univ.) is the most significant contributor. Her analysis of Pryor as both comic genius and tortured soul, description of the censorship of his influential 1977 television series, and interview with frequent Pryor director Michael Schultz illustrate her fine writing and understanding of the importance of this seminal figure. But Pauline Kael's reviews of Pryor's films are a misstep and make one question her place in the pantheon of film criticism. This reviewer also wishes McClusky had provided a more in-depth analysis of Pryor's movies, particularly the blockbusters he made with Gene Wilder. These shortcomings aside, McClusky's contributions and other essays, specifically those by David Felton and Keith Harris, invite discussion on the ways Pryor transformed American comic style. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. --ChoiceG. R. Butters Jr., Aurora University, March 2009

Todd Boyd

"[Like] Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, [and] Muhammad Ali... Richard Pryor contributed the combination of brilliance and tragedy at the core of what it means to be a Black man in America. Like the best jazz improvisers on the bandstand, [Pryor] turned life's mundane moments into intellectual property of the highest order and made life's most difficult situations seem like the proverbial drop in the bucket." —Todd Boyd, author of Am I Black Enough for You?

From the Publisher
"... presents a variety of new and historical perspectives from scholars, filmmakers, and writers that yield insight into the comedian's origins, how he negotiated the difficult straits of the entertainment business, and what his work ultimately signified...." —Bloom
Choice

"McClusky's contributions and other essays, specifically those by David Felton and Keith Harris, invite discussion on the ways Pryor transformed American comic style.... Recommended." —Choice, March 2009

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253220110
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Audrey Thomas McCluskey is a professor of African American and African diaspora studies and former director of the Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University, Bloomington. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Contents
Acknowledgments

Introduction: Richard Pryor: Comic Genius, Tortured Soul / Audrey Thomas McCluskey

Part 1. New Essays
1. "That Nigger's Crazy": Richard Pryor, Racial Performativity, Cultural Critique / Keith M. Harris
2. The Crisis of Black Masculinity in Jo Jo Dancer: Your Life Is Calling / Margo Natalie Crawford
3. Was It Something He Said? Censorship and the Richard Pryor Television Show, 1977 / Audrey Thomas McCluskey
4. Richard Pryor and the Poetics of Cursing / Kate E. Brown
5. Br'er Richard: Fascinatin' Storyteller / Maxine A. LeGall
6. "... And It's Deep Too": The Philosophical Comedy of Richard Pryor / Malik D. McCluskey
7. When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong: Pryor, Chappelle, and the Comedic Politics of the Post-Soul / Tyrone R. Simpson

Part 2. Biography
8. Jump Street!
From Richard Pryor: The Man behind the Laughter (1981) / Joseph Nazel
9. The Politics of Being Black
From If I Stop I'll Die: The Comedy and Tragedy of Richard Pryor (1991) / John A. Williams and Dennis A. Williams
10. "He Wasn't Afraid to Get Naked in Front of People": Michael Schultz Remembers Richard Pryor / Audrey Thomas McCluskey

Part 3. Reviews
11. Time Warp Movies: A Review of Superman III (1985) / Pauline Kael
12. Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip (1994) / Pauline Kael
13. Richard Pryor: The Real Slim Shady (2001) / Rob Sheffield

Part 4. Social and Cultural Criticism
14. The New Comic Style of Richard Pryor (1975) / James Alan McPherson
15. Jive Times: Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin, and the Theatre of the Routine (1974) / David Felton
16. Richard and Me (1994) / Nelson George
17. Hill Street Bullshit, Richard Pryor Routines, and the Real Deal (1997) / Bob Avakian
18. Now's the Time: The Richard Pryor Phenomenon and the Triumph of Black Culture (1998) / Siva Vaidhyanathan
19. A Pryor Love: The Life and Times of America's Comic Prophet of Race (1999) / Hilton Als
20. Conclusion: We Owe a Debt to Richard Pryor / Audrey Thomas McCluskey

Selected Chronology: The Life and Times of Richard Pryor
Additional Sources
Permissions and Credits
List of Contributors
Index

Indiana University Press

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