If you like Louis CK or Chris Rock, acerbic, sharp comedians who like to dig into who we are and how we feel about each other, check out Marina Zenovich's "Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic," which offers a fascinating portrait of the brilliant and troubled comic who paved the way.
I grew up with Pryor--I remember first seeing him in "Hootenanny," of all things. Zenovich follows his career from talk-show friendly 60s comic through his Las Vegas epiphany, when he turned on his audience, spitting epithets and the N-word. He went on to churn out scabrous records and stage shows, struggled with an NBC series, and helped Mel Brooks to write "Blazing Saddles" before finding a mainstream movie career.
Zenovich talks to a wide swath of people who knew him well, from the many women in his life to his fellow comics, from Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg to Dave Chappelle and Lily Tomlin.
While we think we know the dramatic breaking points in Pryor's life--most notably setting himself on fire during a rum-and-crack session--I did not know the details of the brothel his Madea-like grandmother ran in Peoria, Illinois, or his stint with M.S. late in his life. Zenovich was not able to grill the late comedian, and it's sad to see him trying to make a comeback after his brush with death--only to succumb to drugs again.
The film premiered at Tribeca and debuts on Showtime Friday night.