Richard Pyror is one of the most innovative standup comics of his time. After serving in the Army, Pryor began his career spewing lewd thoughts and words at audiences around the country. He was fresh and groundbreaking and... more » his use of extreme foul language made a statement. Soon Pryor began writing for the screen (Blazing Saddles) and acting (Stir Crazy, Lady Sings the Blues). But his real genius resided onstage in the hazy smoke-filled concert hall, microphone in hand. Now you can watch his earliest stand-up days at the New York Improvisation. Live and Smokin' was taped on April 29, 1971 and captures many classic Pryor routines, including the beloved "Wino Preacher and Willie the Junkie."« less
"I wanted to enjoy this video so bad (especially since I had purchased my copy instead of renting it). So far I've seen Live on the Sunset Strip, which was probably the funniest and best, and Richard Pryor Live in Concert, which was really close.I gave this 3 stars because it had 3 good laughs, but I was hoping there would be more. It's only about 45 minutes long, which I was kind of disapointed about at first, then about half an hour in, I caught myself thinking, "oh good, past the halfway mark." With his other performances, I wanted them to go on and on and was sad they were over. This is fairly early standup from 1971. It appears to have been filmed at a supper club, not that the audience is shown at all, but because I could hear silverware clinking against plates in the background. Some of the material goes past raunchy and into gross-out, or at least gross enough that I felt bad for the people in the club who were eating while watching.Pryor does do some funny material, especially comparing how white people do stuff (have dinner, have sex, etc)with how black people do it. I know Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy have done this topic over and over, but let's face it, Pryor did it first. Rock and Murphy both freely admit that he was their idol and the reason they wanted to do stand up, and since I've seen almost all the Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy standup there is, it's funny to see Pryor doing a routine that they both have obviously been inspired by. I am sorry to say that Pryor was seriously under the influence of coke when they filmed this; it would have just been a guess but Pryor very openly and bluntly says how much he loves cocaine, can't get enough of it, and can't stop doing it at the beginning of the video. He also seems much more wired than usual. This is fine, but it gets to the point of affecting his performance (several times he nervously adlibs asides that make no sense).One thing that was poignant that another review I read mentioned was that Pryor jokes about his hellish childhood, blurting out that his mother turned tricks while he was home. He sort of hangs his head quietly and smokes after he says it (it's even more uncomfortable because there's this kind of awkward silence in the club when he talks about it) and it's obvious he still is very sad about it. The production values aren't that great. They have to keep fading in and out, jumping ahead in the performance, probably because he went on one of his drug-induced tangents. Then it has a really abrupt ending, Pryor is doing his wino routine, which is pretty funny, and it seems like he's practically in the middle of a sentence when they freeze it and go to the credits. I could almost hear the editors saying, 'I think I'll end the movie riiight...HERE!" (end). Pryor is very talented, and I'm not saying that the video doesn't have its moments. It's just that I've seen so much better from this brilliant, hilarious guy. I would just recommend that if you haven't seen any filmed/videotaped performances, don't pick this one to start, try one of the ones I mentioned at the beginning of the review."
Pantomime | Detroit | 08/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I understand why people prefer videos like Live at the Sunset Strip, but what those people fail to see is that this is one of the rawest, most heart-wrenching stand-up performances ever put on film. From start to finish, Pryor is laying himself bare--I'd give this video four stars for his boldness alone--being completely honest and in the moment, without a care as to whether the audience is "with" him or not. Several times they clearly are not--you can sense the tension in the room when he chastises a walk-out and admits to having homosexual experiences. It is the monologue where Pryor transforms himself into "Willy the Junkie," however, that makes this video a must for anyone interested in the art of stand-up comedy. It's a masterpiece of audience manipulation--at first, it seems like a harmless, amusing caracature, but soon it morphs into a horrifyingly honest portrayl. I dare anyone to watch this and not have a strong reaction of some sort (it had me in tears). Granted, it isn't funny (who says stand-up has to be funny at all times?), but it shows what Pryor was best at: exploring the area that most people spend their whole lives trying to avoid--The Rock Bottom."
Interesting look at what was to come
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 06/12/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Filmed at New York's Improv in 1971, we see a young Pryor working on perfecting the kind of material that made him famous. More polished versions of some of these routines may be found on the 1971 album "Craps After Hours." However, witness the powerful moment when he alludes to his mother's prostitution, then drops his head in sadness and takes a drag from his cigarette after realizing what he has just said. This scene alone is worth the price of admission in this important look at what was to come."
Early Richard Pryor
tkay | Tuscaloosa, Alabama | 12/02/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Live & Smokin' does contain some funny material but this was one of Richard's first video recordings (if not the first) and he was very nervous. He was also recording in front of the wrong audience. They barely laughed at some really funny stuff. It is at times uncomfortable to watch because you find yourself feeling embarrassed for him. He wants to do well but the audience doesn't cut him any slack. It sounds like the audience is eating (you can hear silverware clashing in the background) and they weren't giving him their undivided attention. This video was shot in the wrong place. It should have been filmed in Atlanta or Detroit. I believe the response from the audience would have been better.
This is Richard Pryor in his embryonic stage. He was performing for the audience instead of performing for himself. If this video had been filmed years later, after his act had been polished, he probably wouldn't have given a flip about the audience being a drag. He would have just done his thing. Bless his heart, he was so nervous. At one point, he even asked the audience to pretend that the cameras weren't there. And if you watch it through the ending credits he even says himself, "This ain't as funny as we thought it was gonna be." You just want to go through the TV and hug him. The material was funny, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I give it 3 stars because of the film's location and because of the horrible ending. The editor just cut him off in the middle of a wino routine. If you are a die-hard Richard Pryor fan (like myself), I would recommend this video. But if you just want to see some good-old fashioned Richie Pry at his best, polished and all, "Live In Concert," or "Live on The Sunset Strip" may be a better choice for you."
How Extraordinary! 1971.......
Shakti | Oakland Gardens, NY USA | 10/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Watching this dvd was like stepping back in time and re- experiencing the year 1971 through the eyes of a conscience human being, philosopher and brilliant comedian. This film may make you feel uncomfortable because it IS the Human Comedy, both funny and painful. Mr. Pryor describes this period, as his 'black man' years instead of his 'negro' years."