From 1977 to 1977 The Richard Pryor Show entertained and captivated American audiences for over three entire episodes. (Four, to be exact.) If you don’t remember the glorious four week run of Richard Pryor’s primetime variety show (especially if you weren’t even alive for it) you’d be forgiven. Like one of Richard Pryor’s crack pipes, the show burned hot and fast. It also so appalled the more humorless parts of America (especially TV executives) that it was canceled almost as soon as it aired.
Why was it canceled? Because it was exactly what you’d expect out of a Richard Pryor sketch show. It was raunchy, racially charged, blunt, and breathtakingly hilarious. It was basically Chappelle’s Show but almost thirty years earlier and on primetime network TV. Who could’ve guessed that that combination wouldn’t work out for a nation whose favorite TV show at the time was Happy Days? Nobody would’ve been dumb enough to put John Belushi on while the kids were awake.
Not only was The Richard Pryor Show groundbreaking with its material, but it also featured a number of then-unknown but soon to be famous comedians and actors as cast members, including Robin Williams (in his TV debut), Sandra Bernhard, John Witherspoon, Paul Mooney, Edie McClurg, and Alan Thicke (as a writer).
Originally ten episodes of the show were ordered by NBC but Pryor and the network had endless disagreements over the show’s content, as well as the time slot. (In fact, pretty much everyone was dumbfounded as to why NBC wanted to air a show written by and starring Richard Pryor right after dinner.) After enough disagreement, Pryor walked. The legendary black and stand-up comedian came back and produced four episodes of the show before quitting again and never returning.
Right from the first episode, which featured a totally naked but genital-free (think an African-American Ken Doll) Richard Pryor, people were outraged and upset. Pryor wouldn’t have it any other way and neither would we. The show may have never gotten the chance it deserved, but we can still remember and recognize it now. Considering how incredibly well it holds up (better than early Saturday Night Live, even) that shouldn’t be hard. These are our favorite sketches that we found on YouTube from a show that was regretfully made well before its time.
To Kill a Mockingbird Parody
Reverend James L. White
Star Wars Bartender