Saturday, December 10, 2005

Richard Pryor, R.I.P..

Digby, over at his blog, has a passage in his requiem for Pryor that sums it up better than I ever could. He describes going to a Pryor show at age 18:

I looked around me in that theatre that night, in which I and my little friend Kathy were among a fair minority of whites, and I realized that we were all laughing uproariously together at this shocking, dirty, racially charged stuff. As someone who grew up in a racist household (and had always had a visceral reaction against it) it was an enormous, overwhelming relief. I understood Richard Pryor, the African Americans in the audience understood Richard Pryor and Richard Pryor and the African Americans understood me. He was right up front, saying it all clearly and without restraint. He wasn't being polite and pretending that race wasn't an issue. And it didn't matter. Nobody, not one person, in that audience was angry. In fact, not one person in that audience was anything but doubled over in paroxysms of hysterical laughter. He had our number, all of us, the whole flawed species.

That last sentence should be Richard Pryor's epitaph. It's a rare comic--hell, it's a damn near unheard of comic these days--who could wrench so many laughs out of so much human tragedy and stupidity.

My favorite Pryor routine is memorialized in his first concert movie, and it describes his first heart attack. He does a little one-man show in which he plays not only his own terrified self, but his own angry, talking heart with the attitude of a particularly vicious mugger. At one point the heart makes him get down on one knee and beg for mercy for eating so much pork. And it's hilarious. It takes real genius to make something that raw that funny.

R.I.P. Richard Pryor. Your legacy lives on.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Your Holiday Viewing Guide

Latest Newspaper Column

Here it is, another holiday season. And you know what that means. It’s time to gather around with the family, stick a plastic bag of compressed turkey parts in the microwave, and bask in the warm glow of holiday TV specials.

This year’s selections include:

“CSI: North Pole”(CBS): The combined casts of all three “CSI” shows come together as they are magically transported to Santa’s compound to discover the identity of whoever killed and dressed out Blitzen the Reindeer. At the show’s climax, the group gets stranded on an ice floe without food, and viewers can call a special 1-800 number to vote on who gets eaten (David Caruso).

“A Capitol Christmas”(CBS): Our nation’s lawmakers put away their differences for one night of holiday cheer. Comedy ensues when Ted Kennedy gets into the eggnog and starts hitting on Nancy Pelosi. Musical highlights include Reps. Tom DeLay and Randall “Duke” Cunningham singing a heartwarming rendition of John Prine’s classic “Christmas in Prison” with special guest Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Rumors that they’ll be joined by Bill Frist and Karl Rove could not be confirmed at press time.

“Christmas in Crawford” (Fox News): We actually have very little information on this one. Rumors in Hollywood claim that the show may not even get made, since the president refuses to commit to a timetable for taping it. He says it might embolden the other networks.

“Dick Cheney’s Christmas at Guantanamo” (ABC): President Bush’s very own jolly old elf visits not only the Cuban prison camp, but other CIA “black sites” to explore how our hardworking intelligence community celebrates the season. You and your family will get a warm glow as the vice president plugs in the “Human Christmas Tree,” and so will the suspect picked to be the tree, you betcha!

“A Sopranos Christmas”(HBO): The lovable lugs of TV’s favorite Mob family celebrate the season with a live broadcast from Tony Soprano’s infamous strip bar, the Bada-Bing. Songs include “What Freakin’ Child Is Dis?” and “Grandma Got Whacked By a Reindeer (So You Guys Know What to Do).” Unfortunately, this being HBO, the special will not be seen till March of 2008.

Bill O’Reilly’s “Merry Christmas! Shut Up!” (Fox News): The blustery bully of Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” takes to the street to save Christmas by leaping out of bushes and alleyways to scream at anyone who dares to say “Happy Holidays.” Original songs include “Turn Christian, You Punk, Or Else!” and “Joy to the World (Except Those Pinkos in San Francisco).” Sponsored with limited commercial interruption by the American Falafel Council.

“A Fear Factor Christmas” (NBC): Winning contestants from the show’s last three seasons return to face the most terrifying challenge of all: Aunt Martha’s fruitcake. Viewer discretion advised.

“TomKat’s Scientology Christmas Special” (OnDemand): This special starring famous Scientologists Tom Cruise and his brainwashed minion — er, sorry, new convert — Katie Holmes, is only available on pay-per-view. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars to see, and people who’ve seen it through to the end say you really won’t believe how stupid the big surprise ending is.

“A Very Chickenhawk Christmas” (UPN): A group of 18- to 25-year-old Young Republicans who fervently believe in the Iraq War (but not enough to actually enlist) put on a Christmas special for the troops. As program host Tiffani “Muffy” Freeman put it: “We didn’t actually go to Iraq ’cause it’s, like, dirty and dangerous and stuff? So we got together and thought we’d cheer the troops up by singing them some songs? Like ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas.’ That one’s like, really poignant and sad and stuff because, like, they won’t be? But we back President Bush and the troops, like, a thousand percent.” When asked if her backing of the president’s war meant that she or her friends would be enlisting, Freeman rolled her eyes and answered, “As if. I mean, we, like, have plans for our lives, you know?”

“Pat Robertson’s Bat-Crazy Christmas” (CBN): The maniacal televangelist’s Christmas message reminds us of what the season’s all about: Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men, except gays, lesbians, anyone who’s against teaching Intelligent Design, the State Department, the president of Venezuela, Democrats, the media, the city of New Orleans, the city of Orlando, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Unitarians, atheists, agnostics, feminists, the entire ACLU, “secular humanists,” several members of the Supreme Court, Ellen DeGeneres and anyone in her audience, and parents of kids who dress up for Halloween. Ho Ho Ho!

Happy viewing and Joyeux Noel, y’all!