Craps (After Hours)
In the Richard Pryor story it’s often mentioned that as he was climbing the mountain of stand-up he had to shed the clothes of Bill Cosby Clone. Mentioning Cosby might be triggering enough these days but there’s no denying that in the 1960s Cosby was one of comedy’s kings. And Pryor was one of his many students. Richard’s earliest TV appearances show him doing light-hearted and observational material. When he broke big it was with a sound and feel and stories that reflected the streets, that opened up about the psychological damage of growing up in a brothel, or the sexual abuse he suffered and early introduction to drugs and alcohol.
By the time Pryor was releasing comedy albums – his first coming out in 1968 – that evolution was underway. Omnivore Recordings has reissued both the first album and this, his second – celebrating its 50th Anniversary.
Where he might sound tentative still on the debut, despite some classic routines like Super Nigger and Frankenstein, he is fully formed on Craps (After Hours). This is Pryor in the raw. This is the Pryor that would develop over the decade and become the most important stand-up comedian of his generation and one of these most influential of all time. This is the Pryor that would head to Hollywood.
Here he is performing uncensored – a tour of black clubs put him with the community he was reflecting in his act. It is gloves off and full biting social commentary. It is dated – because it is comedy from 50 years ago. But it is also remarkable how decent so much of the routine is still; how much has not changed, how powerful these words remain.
The original album here is supplemented with four tracks from the brilliant early years compilation, Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years (1966-1974), which is currently out of print.
If you’ve wondered about Pryor’s early stand-up, if it’s been too long since you’ve heard it, if you only known him from the comedy specials that started to arrive at the end of the 1970s then you owe yourself the favour of checking out his first comedy albums. Perhaps especially Craps.
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