Richard Pryor Here and Now [1983]

Dave Chappelle: For What It's Worth finds the Comedy Central superstar in performance at San Francisco's legendary Winterland, where he's welcomed with a huge ovation. Easing into his set, Chappelle shares a few observations about the city itself, noting there's nothing tender about the Tenderloin District: "You've got people smoking crack while sitting in front of Starbucks." Chappelle's inspiration dips a bit after that, as the subject of sex with monkeys and smoking weed with Indians doesn't quite reach his usual standards. Then, suddenly, he's on top of his game again, his material like an echo of vintage Lenny Bruce as he discusses why whites drink grape juice and blacks drink "grape drink," why police harassment has led him to believe in impromptu alibis, and why the culture of celebrity should stay away from real-world issues: "Maybe Jah Rule doesn't have the answers we want in a disaster." --Tom Keogh Did you ever have a good concert spoiled by yahoos in the audience? In Richard Pryor: Here and Now, the last and least of Pryor's three concert films, Pryor's consummate comic genius is put to the supreme test by audience members who shout out, heckle, and otherwise break the spell during even the more potent, personal pieces, such as the near 15-minute character sketch about a junkie from Pryor's old neighborhood. Filmed in New Orleans, Here and Now is not as primally funny as Live in Concert and Live on the Sunset Strip. At this point, Pryor is seven months sober. At different points in the concert he reflects on his substance abuse. A routine about acquaintances from those days reminding him about his outrageous behavior is a more graphic variation on Shelley Berman's classic routine about "the morning after the night before." But he keenly confronts and challenges racial attitudes when speaking about white panic when drugs reach beyond black neighborhoods into their own homes. "Epidemic," he observes, "is when white folks are doing it.... Maybe the next time you see black people in trouble, you'll help." (Prophetic pre-Katrina words!) Even with less-than-inspired material, Pryor is mesmerizing to watch, whether evoking frigid Illinois winds or getting inside the head of a crab that an audience member presents to him during the show. --Donald Liebenson

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