Friday, October 22, 2010

Who Me? I'm Not Him (1977)

This is where it started for me. I found a copy of this at Faubion's Fabulous Junk in March 1989, and was hooked from then on. The cover drawing is, I assume, tied in with the film Which Way Is Up?...or from a sketch from The Richard Pryor Show. It's a little odd to look these days, considering that he's up there now (the CD reissue has a forgettable cover, with a later picture of Richard in mirror-image).

The material goes between various recordings from P.J.'s and the Troubadour, but pretty seamlessly, and if you don't listen too closely, it almost sounds like one whole performance on each album side.

Side one starts out with an organ-trio fanfare, and Richard welcoming the crowd, talking with them for a bit. He mentions Peoria, and someone name-checks Aiken Alley, making Richard crack, "That's where the whorehouses are! You were there?". He goes into the anecdote about slipping in dog poo in his front yard while wearing a new cowboy outfit, marking that as his first comedy routine and sums it up: "And I've just been slippin' in shit ever since, trying to make money!".

He goes into routines about growing up as a black child with some funny lines ("I cut a girl's hair off, and pasted it back on...her dress!"), then getting into a street gang as a teenager. Eventually, his being out at night gets him caught and hauled into the police station, and then in front of a "Negro judge", who gives Richard a jail sentence sight-unseen, making Richard silently curse the judge: "I hope you turn White!".

He does the "Highway 16" bit, which shows off Richard's flair for starting a routine where he can take it and run with it any way he could. It starts out with his father asking an old-timer for directions to get to Highway 16, and the old-timer drones on and on about the old days around the town they're stuck in, totally forgetting about the directions he was asked about. This version has a great variation where some people are getting up and walking out wile he's doing the routine, and he throws it in: "You go about six over those people as you're going!".

After that is another routine about the faith healers on the radio, and of Richard's local fire-and-brimstone preacher "in the year nineteen twunny-nahhhn!", this time he runs into God, only in the form of a Sun. During the sermon, he delivers a classic line about money: "The root of all evil, unless you know how to handle it!".

Side two kicks off with another organ fanfare, and soon he's going into "Super Nigger" and the "Farting" routines, which are not much different than on the first album. Then come routines about the Army, war movies, and his impressions of Tarzan and Cheetah. After that is a great routine about Dracula conversing with a brother on the street (early shades of "Wino Dealing With Dracula"). The album side ends with "Frankenstein Taking LSD", only with longer and more inventive "tripping out" noises than on the first album, making the punch line much better. He gets a good round of applause for it, and that's where it fades out.

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