Stealing Comedy Material from a Dead Man

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One of the gifts gratefully received from the journalist  this Christmas is The Ultimate Collection of Richard Pryor DVD’s.   The idea for this came from intrepid adventure  Comedian  Marcus Brigstock.   We were  in a Russian ship a few months ago on a once in a lifetime journey  -actually  Marcus’s second –  in the Arctic.  He  is a comics comic,  in the same way CLR James was a writers writer,  so it was a golden opportunity  to talk to him about comedy especially when trying,  and spectacularly failing, to write one myself. 

So  it’s not with a little excitement that months later, tonight, I sit in the light of  a roaring fire  in Cornwall Southern England to watch Richard Pryor Live in Concert,  a  genius at work.  How  seamless  it all seems as he paces the stage skipping from one subject matter to another as if the progression.  He plays the audience like  a conductor an orchestra . But read his book Pryor Convictions:  It takes allot of effort to seem effortless.   

About half way  through the concert Pryor delivers a section on how he was punished as a child. He picks apart the seams that hold the entire punishment regime together. It’s the brutality.  He splits the difference between the liberal white and African American audience and in the same riff unifies them with hilarity. And best of all, the audience knows he’s doing this. You don’t have to experience it to see how funny it is.

But I am not laughing. I'm experiencing  dejavu.  Earlier this year in Botswana Southern Africa  I read poetry  on stage with a London writer  who read  this entire Richard Pryor section  as if it were his own original construct.  In much the same way of the American audience forty years in the past,  the African audience  including myself  roared with laughter and appreciation.   It strikes a different and altogether revealing light upon the writer who uses another mans material.

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