Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
I was like nine years old and my parents had some people over for dinner one evening, and after dinner my mom told me to go off and play with these people's daughter who was about my same age.  No problem, so I take her up to me and my older brother's bedroom, flip through some albums and see my brother had absconded with my dad's copy of Richard Pryor's 'That Niggers Crazy'.  Shoot, why not listen to that?  That's some stuff that a pair of nine year olds should totally be listening to.  Of course my parents heard the sounds of that foul-mouthed bastard coming out of the room and brutally put a stop to all of that, but the thing is we always listened to that foul mouthed bastard in our house, my parents just failed to tell nine year old Chris that their liberal Freedom of Information policies didn't apply to everybody who came into the house.  So I got in trouble for nothing!  At the time I blamed Richard for that ass whooping but over the years me and Richard came to an understanding, and by the time he set himself on fire, we had totally forgiven him, because it wasn't his fault, now was it?  Then he made The Toy.  And Brewsters Millions.  And Moving.  And Superman III.  And Critical Condition.  And See no Evil Hear no Evil.  I would throw 'Another You' in there too but I never saw that.  Oh Richard… what did I ever do to you?  Regardless of all of that, Richard Pryor left this Earth late in 2005 and director Marina Zenovich has taken on the task of investigating the life of Richard Pryor in Showtime Televisions biographical documentary 'Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic'.

Zenovich's film starts off in smashing fashion, with a few choice clips of Pryor on stage from what I believe is the concert film 'Live and Smoking'.  It's a good start because it's some funny stuff and it gives the uninitiated just a hint at why the subsequent talking heads are about to lay so much praise on this man, and also gives those who might've forgotten a quick refresher on why this cat is considered such a freaking legend.  Then the director cuts to some archival news footage of the day after Pryor set himself on fire and then the film gets started.
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Zenovich presents us with a very straightforward affair as various living legends such as Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bob Newhart among others discuss the man they knew, and how he influenced their careers.  Then she takes us to the early days of his career, showing us grainy black and white footage of the comic on the Ed Sullivan show, footage which truly wasn't all that funny, but this was before Richard Pryor became Richard Pryor.  This was when Richard Pryor was attempting to be Bill Cosby.  It makes sense because Mr. Cosby was hugely successful back then and he was that incredibly rare African American with his own TV show.  Sure, he was playing second fiddle to Robert Culp, but he was a Black guy on TV.  I'm told you did not see that back in the sixties.  Or in the 2000's.  But that's another story for another time.

While watching Robin Williams and Mike Epps and Whoopi speak was fun, most of the real insight came from people intimately associated with the man such one of his ex-wives… he had seven I think… one of his girlfriends… this number we can't count, his agent, his lawyer, his friends… these are the people that were able to provide the most insight into what might've been going inside the head of Mr. Pryor.  Not that the man was shy or held back or kept secrets, I mean a large part of his comedy was basically Richard Pryor bearing his soul, but there were things going on inside the soul of Richard Pryor that I'm sure he couldn't even understand.

Thusly, considering Richard Pryor's life was pretty much an open book, the main subject of almost the vast majority of his comedy routines, not to mention his semi-autobiographical film 'Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling', I have to admit that the director didn't tell me a whole lot of stuff that I wasn't already aware of.  Marina Zenovich has more than enough filmmaking skill to arrange these familiar elements in a storytelling style that still made this film very entertaining, it's just that for me personally, it wasn't very insightful. 

Now to the contrary, I had my son watch this movie with me, inappropriate content and all, because as I informed him this is part of history and he should be aware of it.  To that end, the movie was very effective as a documentary as he was almost completely unaware of the trials and tribulation of Richard Pryor beyond 'The Richard Pryor Show' DVD's from his variety show back in the 70's that we have in the house, and the fact that his grandfather's favorite movie of all time is 'Harlem Nights'.  I know, right?  But with that being said and my son receiving a Richard Pryor primer from this movie, I was still left explaining a few things further as the movie largely only scratched surface issues in the life of the famed comedian.

Admittedly, there were a few things I was unaware of, like I didn't know that Richard Pryor and Pam Grier were engaged… proof positive he was on that stuff that he found a way to mess that up… and I also didn't realize that the concert film 'Live on the Sunset Strip' was actually the second take as the first attempt the night before was an utter failure.

Still, at the end of the day 'Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic' was a very well done documentary.  Logically organized, balanced in its presentation, and easy to digest.  Not a lot of depth perhaps, but still a good watch.
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