• Richard Pryor - No Pryor Restraint: Life In Concert

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: June 2013.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Richard Pryor
    Year: Various
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    The Collection:

    Richard Pryor may be gone, but his legacy and influence live on and has recently been celebrated once again with Shout! Factory’s fantastic June 2013 CD/DVD/Book release, Richard Pryor - No Pryor Restraint: Life In Concert. Made up of nine CDs and two DVDs compiling some previously tough to find material, it’s quite a comprehensive overview of the man’s work on stage and it also serves as a time line of sort, tracking his evolution from the sixties through to the early nineties.

    Here’s you’ll find in the set…

    The CDs:

    Spread across the seven discs we find:


    -1966 - 1968

    His official debut originally released by Dove was recorded live at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, California and featured the comedian dressed as an African tribesman on the front cover, some of the routines included on this disc are from that recording, others from the Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years Collection. Here's what you'll find on this first disc:

    Peoria / Improv Part 1 / Heart & Brain / Playboy Club / Rumpelstiltskin / Slippin' In Poo Poo / Birth Control / Nigger Babies / Black Power / Super Nigger / I Feel / Jail / Prison Play / War Movies / The Army / Army Life / / Hippy Dippys / Hank's Place / Improv Part 2 / Mankind

    He hasn’t quite perfected his routine here, though you can see where some of the ideas that would become some of his better known bits were starting to gestate. He’s a bit unrefined, his timing isn’t quite perfect, but he’s still pretty damn funny. Some of the politics are dated and were probably funnier at the time but this is an interesting early effort from the man.


    -1971 - 1974: Some of this material was recorded live at the Redd Foxx Club in 1971 and originally released by Laff Records, other bits at venues in Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkely. These performance bits shows Pryor on a much stronger ‘blue’ streak than on the first album. An improvement in every way, here he’s starting to come into his own. The racial humor is more effective, noticeably more antagonistic and much funnier for it while the drug and sex references do not pull any punches. This performance includes:

    Gettin' High / Fuck From Memory / Big Tits / Gettin Some / Ass-hole / The Line Up / Religion / Black Preachers / I Spy Cops / Sugar Ray / White Folks / Indians / Black And Proud / Got A Dollar / Dope / Wino Panthers / After Hours / 280 Pound Ass / Crap Game / Black Jack / Whorehouse Part 1 / Whorehouse Part 2 / Attica / Wattstax Monologue / Fighting / Niggers & Italians / Death / Street Corner Wino / Nigger With A Seizure / Have You Ass Home By 11:00 / Black & White Lifestyles / Exorcist / Wino Dealing With Dracula

    A lot of Pryor’s better known routines can be heard here in their early stages, making this important not only as a great piece of comedy but as an interesting historical document of his work and the ensuing influence it would soon have in the world of comedy. Here Pryor’s knack for comedy based on the quirks and negatives of the American society of the day is in full swing. The racial comedy has more or less been perfected and is performed with both barrels blazing. His comedy has barbs, it hits hard and is consistently hilarious and at the same time, performed with a great sense of comedic timing and flow.


    -1974 - 1975: Playing off the controversy surrounding his career, by this point Pryor was recording for Reprise though some of this material was recorded for Soul Train. Here’s the track listing:

    Niggers Vs. The Police / The Black Down / Wino & The Junkie / Interview / Mudbone – Intro / Mudbone – Little Feets / Life / My Funeral / Cocaine / Just Us / When Your Woman Leaves You / The Goodnight Kiss / Ali / Our Text For Today / Soul Magazine Promo

    The Mudbone character that he’d use throughout parts of his career plays a big part in this one, but that’s a positive, not a negative. Some material here was recorded at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, this album also won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album the year of its release and it’s easy to see why. He’s in his comfort zone here, joking about his own cocaine issues and tackling racial issues head on while also spending some time discussing male/female relations. Lots of insight here, the kind that makes his comedy interesting and not just a series of expletives and dirty jokes.


    -1976 - 1978: The second Reprise album (which tracks 4-9 are taken from) was recorded at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood, and there's also some material here which was taped at The Comedy Store, also in Hollywood. Once, Pryor's material was awarded a Grammy for Best Comedy Album. There's

    Fame Part 1 / Patty Hearst / Hiustory Lesson / Bicentennial Prayer / Black & White Women / Hillbilly (alternate version) / Our Gang (alternate version) / Our Gang / Acid / Bicentennial Nigger / New Year's Eve (alternate version) / New Year's Eve / White And Black People / Black Funerals / Discipline

    Again, at this point, Pryor is at the top of his game. Here we get a nice mix of character building and interpretation in addition to plenty of witty racial humor, much of it of the observational variety. He’s almost a living cartoon character here, shifting in and out of character and performing with ridiculous voice acting throughout – it’s very impressive and a stand out in the set.


    -1978 - 1981: Around this time Pryor released a double album released by Warner Brothers (no longer under Reprise), some of the material for this disc originated there but we also get a few other bits and pieces from the early eighties too. The following routines are included:

    Heart Attacks / Dogs And Horses / Jim Brown / Monkeys / Kids / Chinese Food / Being Sensitive / I Don't Give A Fuck / Fame Part 2 / Women (alternate version 1) / Women (alternate version 2) / Therapy / God

    This is top notch stuff, also included is the filmed version on DVD.


    -1981 - 1983): Again, a lot of material on this disc was released by Warner Brothers originally, but again, this material is excellent and some of it too is also included as the filmed version on DVD. Here’s the track listing:

    Prison / Africa (alternate version) / Bein' Real / Racism / Opening Night Jitters / Freebase / Hospital / One Day At A Time / Getting Older / Hangin' With Sammy Davis Jr.

    Once again, Pryor was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for this recording. Given that he had almost died from his drug use not too long before this recording was made, there’s a lot of introspection here about his cocaine habit. This makes it even more personal than usual, and the performance here does an amazing job of treading the line between comedy and tragedy. Some of the unreleased content here, particularly the bit about Sammy, is killer.


    -1983 - 1992,etc.: Pryor’s last official stand up album and his last for Warner Brothers was recorded at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans, Louisiana. Again, the filmed version is also included in this set on DVD. Here’s the track listing:

    Motif The Junkie / Inebriated / I Like Women / Childbirth / M.S. / Ad Libs & Heckler's Montage / Interview (1983)

    This last disc is just sort of a random assortment of stuff not necessarily presented in chronological order that kind of doesn't fit with the way the rest of the set is laid out. It's not the best material in the set but it's interesting to hear and still pretty amusing.

    The DVDs:

    Also included here are two DVDs containing three complete concert films.


    -Richard Pryor Live In Concert (1979): Pryor’s second stand up film was the first to get a theatrical release and it certainly holds up well, earning its reputation as one of the most important and influential stand up films ever made. Pryor has certainly found his voice here, his confidence and enthusiasm seems boundless and his talent for physical comedy has rarely been captured as well as it has here. With routines covering everything from drug use to dogs to sex to hanging out in the woods and everything in between this is Pryor at his absolute best and the crown jewel of the footage included here.

    Arrival / White And Black People / Thank You For Coming / New Year's Eve / Dogs / Monkeys / Dogs And Horses / Heart Attacks / Preach, Nigger, Preach / Black Funerals / Discipline / Nature / Things In The Woods / Deer Hunter / Leon Spinks / Ali / Keeping In Shape / Kids / Lights Up, Please / Chinese Food / Being Sensitive / End Credits


    -Richard Pryor Live On The Sunset Strip (1982): Another excellent performance, this time getting surprisingly frank and personal when covering his adventures into cocaine addiction and the ensuing problems that followed. He also tells some hilarious stories about working in feature films and of course, delivers plenty of the racial humor that had become one of his trademarks at this point in his career.

    Opening Credits / Women Part 1 (Sex) / Greed & Money / Lawyers / Cool Clothes / Women Part 2 (Relationships) / Prison / Racism / Africa / Mafia Club / Mudbone / Freebase / Hospital / End Credits

    -Richard Pryor... Here And Now (1983): Last but not least, one of Pryor’s final standup album was also filmed and released with some interesting interview footage cut into it early on in which Pryor talks about staying sober. Performed in front of a ridiculously enthusiastic audience in New Orleans, Pryor is once again in fine form, making humor out of odd situations like his drug use and telling crazy stories about his upbringing. He plays his characters well and these bits remain just as funny as they had to have been back then, the ‘Mudbone’ bits being a good example of just how he could create something funny out of racial stereotypes better than anyone else.

    Opening / Here And Now / Slavery & Southern Hospitality / Cold Weather / Inebriated / I Like Women / One Night Stands, Part 1 (Strange Women) / Foreign Policy / The Motherland / I Met The President / Fire Exit / Mudbone / One Day At A Time Part 1 (Fucked Up) / Listening To The Crab / Motif The Junkie / One Day At A Time Part 2 (No Drugs) / I Remember / One Night Stands Part 2 (Sexual Issues) / Being Famous / End Credits

    Each of the three DVDs is presented in anamorphic widescreen and in nice condition. Audio chores are handled by Dolby Digital Mono tracks, in English with no alternate language or subtitle options provided. Aside from menu screens and chapter selection, the discs are barebones.

    All of this material comes housed inside a lavish and handsome hardcover book package. Not only does the book hold the CDs and DVDs but it also contains loads of rare and never before made public photos from the Pryor family archives, tribute essays, a complete discography, a complete filmography, and a touching piece written by Richard Pryor's widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor.

    The Final Word:

    If you’re a fan of Richard Pryor’s standup, then this set is not only a no-brainer, it’s also pretty essential. A great package in every regard, from the content to the packaging to the written material included with it. The material the set is not only smart and engaging, but most importantly it’s very funny. Highly recommended for anyone with even the slightest inkling of appreciation for who Pryor was and what he did better than almost everyone else.

    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I heard that monkey routine years ago and haven't heard it since, but man, the idea of the monkey humping his ear is HILARIOUS. Funny guy, for sure.
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      I saw all of the Pryor movies when they were released and thought he was the funniest human being on the planet. Still do.
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      The other night there was a docu on tv about Richard called "Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic (2013)", it was incredibly sad, focusing on his upbringing in a whore house, his grandma the madam, his self destruction via cocaine, his struggle with relationships (something like 7 marriages), his famous suicide attempt setting himself on fire and his struggle with MS in his later years. There was still plenty to laugh at, most of his best jokes came from this misery. But the overall sadness has stuck with me for the past couple days.The funniest part was something Paul Mooney said when talking about a time Richard famously and purposely bombed on stage. Paul Mooney said, "It was so quiet you could hear a rat pissing on cotton in Georgia." We practically fell on the floor we were laughing so hard.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Thanks for the heads up on Omit The Logic, Scott, which I hadn't seen before. It's pretty awesome. I didn't know anything about the Gay Rights benefit, or that he pretty much admitted that catching fire was a suicide attempt.Also, Paul Mooney is like the funniest guy in the world. That guy cracks me up.
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      You're welcome, glad you liked it. It got real personal. I didn't know he played that classic show at the Sunset Strip twice, and that he bombed the first night. That Gay Rights benefit was tragically funny in a car wreck kinda way. I always thought the fire was an dumb accident.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Quote Originally Posted by Scott View Post
      You're welcome, glad you liked it. It got real personal. I didn't know he played that classic show at the Sunset Strip twice, and that he bombed the first night. That Gay Rights benefit was tragically funny in a car wreck kinda way. I always thought the fire was an dumb accident.
      When they were talking about him bombing on the Sunset Strip, I was thinking "I've seen that and it's fucking hilarious. Am I a moron?" I didn't know it was two nights either.