Few will deny Richard Pryor’s place as one of stand up comedy’s true geniuses. As with many comedians who emerged both before and after him, Pryor was plagued by demons; demons that provided the source of some of his best comedy. One of the reasons Richard Pryor was so special was that nothing was off limits. Nothing was too personal or painful to be mined for comedy gold. “I could laugh at anything,” Pryor said. “Nothing was too sad some humor couldn’t be found in it.”
Directed by Marina Zenovich (Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired) Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic is a straightforward tribute. For those familiar with Richard Pryor’s life and work, there’s not much new ground covered here. However, Zenovich landed interviews with an impressive group of people who knew and worked with Pryor like Paul Mooney, Mel Brooks, Robin Williams, and Jesse Jackson, along with those influenced by him over the years like Dave Chappelle and Whoopi Goldberg. We get much more personal insights about him from former girlfriends, an ex-wife, his widow Jennifer Lee Pryor, whom he married twice, and his son, Richard Pryor Jr.
Focusing largely on his career, the film briefly touches on his childhood raised in a brothel, becoming a father at 15, and his numerous marriages. When he first arrived on the comedy scene, Pryor modeled himself after Bill Cosby, and landed a gig in Vegas. After deciding that wasn’t who he wanted to be, and flipping out with Dean Martin in attendance, Pryor spent time living in Berkley, immersed in the hippie lifestyle. He reemerged, having worked profanity into his act, with no holds barred observations on racism, and other hot button issues that attracted fans both black and white, while stirring up some controversy along the way.
If one thing is clear from Zenovich’s film, Richard Pryor was a man with several distinct identities; the abrasive, N-word-spouting, quick witted storyteller; the man who gave his breakthrough performance as Piano Man in “Lady Sings the Blues”; the co-writer and would-be star of Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” (Warner Brothers refused to give him the role, afraid of his drug use); the man who after a trip to Africa swore he would never use the word “nigger” in his stand-up comedy routine again. Richard Pryor was a mass of contradictions, and different things to different people. The one thing that can’t be denied is his unbelievable talent.
Zenovich doesn’t avoid his well-documented legal troubles, and struggles with cocaine addiction. One wonders how a man so beloved could get to such a self-destructive place as to set themselves on fire. Was he just too high to realize what he’d done? Was he trying to commit suicide? We will never know for sure, but it seems clear that despite his best efforts, Richard Pryor spent his life haunted by demons. And while he dealt with drug problems, shot his own car, and was involved in several other strange incidents, it’s likely that he would have ended up in jail, or died as a young man if he hadn’t had comedy as an outlet.
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986, by the early 1990’s Pryor was using a power operated scooter to get around, He died of a heart attack on December 10, 2005 at the age of 65. While Omit the Logic is far from the whole story of Richard Pryor’s life, its well put together and serves as a solid primer of his work. For Pryor fans and neophytes alike, Omit the Logic is
Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Omit the Logic is a mix of newly shot interviews shot on digital, and archival footage. As expected, the new interviews have a clean, high definition appearance. The archival footage varies a bit based on its age, but it’s all more than acceptable. Colors are bright on the new footage, and it looks as though some of the older black and white material has received some restoration. This is a very solid 1080p presentation.
The English 2.0 DTS HD Audio track handles this dialogue heavy film very well, providing perfect clarity.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
Totaling nearly forty minutes there are additional interviews with the following people:
- David Banks
- Mel Brooks
- Whoopi Goldberg
- Quincy Jones
- Willie Nelson
- Jennifer Lee Pryor
- David Steinberg
- Lily Tomlin