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May 16, 1979 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1979-05-16

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The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, May 16, 1979-Page 7

Most of us like to believe our culture
has moved several steps beyond the -
pint where someone like Lenny Bruce
could be branded obscene for saying
"cocksucker" in public. After all, the
movie Lenny offered a veritable Jesus
Bruce to the audience of unassuming
young; people swear freely in college
classrooms, those former havens of
stalwart traditionalism; and Richard
Pryor-Live in Concert,a90-minute
record of a single appearance the
comedian gave earlier this year in Long
Beach, California, is playing at
theatres across the country.
Yes, in the last fifteen years or so,
American culture has found a lot of
room for Pryor, someone who, in a nut-
shell, says whatever the hell is on his
mind. But how much of that is accep-
tance, and how much is merely toleran-
ce, walking hand-in-hand with the fact
that he's become such an attractively
bankable commodity?
L ENNY BRUCE, socially high-
minded as he was, often had nothing
more on his mind than shocking the hell
out of people. One can even see that as
socially redeeming; after the
fabulously dreary fifties, a little shock
therapy was probably in order. But
Pryor isn't Bruce, and that's why it's a
goddamned shame that he's "accep-
ted" asa dirty comic.
How far have we come if we let
someone like Pryor say anything he
wants, only to snicker behind his back
at how deliriously obscene he is? A few

restraint utterly lacking

years ago, Pryor might have snorted
that the only thing he wanted to do was
make some bread. But his material in
the film (roughly equivalent to his
recently-released two-record LP Wan-
ted) is a deliberate attempt to speak to
a larger audience than ever before;
only a die-hard cynic would believe that
money was the only thing lurking
behind that change.
It's clear that Pryor wants to com-
municate. Like Woody Allen in Manhat-
tan, he tries to cut through the shit of
modern life for a moment and remind
us of what goes on beneath the myths
and lifestyles of contemporary
America. I await the day Pryor isn't
hyped as some underhanded foul-
mouthed Black Panther (the signs out-
side the theater that "warn" innocent
bystanders about the "vulgar"
language inside don't help matters).
Anyone who cares about relations
between the sexes or between blacks
and whites, about contemporary
American life, or the state of American
comedy, owes it to himself to see
Richard Pryor-Live in Concert. Along,
with Woody Allen, Pryor is, quite sim-
ply, one of the two comic geniuses at
work in America today.
YOU KNOW HOW George Carlin tells
those slice-of-life anecdotes on The
Tonight Show about the common quirks
of everyday life (example: "Ever
tasted a hot dog you ate three days
ago?"), Well, Richard Pryor does pret-
ty much the same thing. Only his jokes
are about fucking and going to the
bathroom and rapists and having heart
attacks and how much he despises the
way American has treated its black
people-in short, about a lot of things
that exist in real life but that Carlin,
Martin Mull, Joan Rivers, Johnny Car-
son, Steve Martin, and even Lily
Tomlin (not to mention someone like

David Brenner) manage to avoid like
the plague. Watching a Pryor
routine-watching him joke about how
women sometimes don't have orgasms
or how he shot his car full of holes to
stop his wife from leaving
him-becomes progressively more
exhilarating. And suddenly, you realize
everything comedy can be, and you ask
"yourself why you haven't demanded
that feeling from other comics.
Pryor's filmed monologue flows with
astounding fluidity. Through invisibly
smooth transitions he slides from jokes
about mouth-to-mouth resucitation to
giving urine on demand at a hospital to
John Wayne telling Death to "get the
fuck out of here" to black funerals to
cocaine to how his grandmother whipped
him to a pulp when he was a boy. His
act depends on delivery more than that
of virtually any comic I've seen. I wan-
ted to write down part of his routine to
print in this review, but gave up after 20
minutes. Pryor's impression of a child
trying ineptly to lie his way out of an
obvious- offense is pointless without
those innocent wide eyes and caught-in-
the-act falsetto. And it's worth the ad-
mission to see him do a stuttering
THE MOST hard-hitting material
(to me, anyway) is his devastatingly
accurate impressions of whites; these
must be seen and heard to be believed.
"Uh, I believe those were our seats,"
Pryor minces in a meekly choked-off
delivery, mimicking a white man who's
returned from intermission to find his
seat occupied by an imperious black.
Only the voice isn't merely realistic;
there is so much undisguised venom in
the way his caricature picks out the
white's befuddled lack of cool that it
makes a "statement" worthy of
Malcolm X at his most furiously in-
Like Lenny Bruce, Pryor says what
most of us are thinking, but what just
ain't kosher to say, even, perhaps, to
those we trust most. And, more than
Bruce, Pryor is the comic of a thousand
voices. His specialty is personifying
inanimate objects, animals, and parts
of the body. When his ribs are crumpled
in a boxing match and they tell him to
fall down, his legs bark up, "You want
us to fall, man? You gonna make us
look bad because you can't take it?" In
a brilliant enactment of the heart at-
tack he suffered last year, he
simultaneously becomes Pryor the vic-
tim, his offending heart, an angel-phone
operator that'a a dead-ringer for
Tomlin's Ernestine, and Pryor the
comic, surveying and commenting on
the insane proceedings.
Bruce as a comic Messiah make the
mistake of turning the point of his social
criticism into Gospel; Bruce wasn't
profound-only profoundly truthful.

Beautifully baroque
The Barococo Ensemble treated a small crowd to a delightful afternoon of
Baroque and Rococo music last Sunday in the Union's Pendleton Room. The
talented six-member group, which specializes in music of the 17th and 18th
centuries, includes Michele Derr, soprano; Deanna Boylan, mezzo-soprano;
Evelyn Avsharian and Rebecca Chudacoff, violinists; Carol Bundra, cello;
and Ginger Rogers, harpsichord. Professor Ellwood Derr, the group's
musical director, also plays the harpsichord.
With the opening chords of Arcangelo Corelli's Trio Sonata in A Major, the
Gothic style Pendleton Room comes to seem transformed into a royal
Baroque chamber. The two violinists, cellist, and harpsichordist exhibited
perfect ensemble; each player listened intently to match her tone, style,
shythm and balance with those of the other three. In the two movements of
the Corelli Sonata, Fantasy and Jig, playful variations are exchanged bet-
ween the instruments-one presents the theme, the next answers.
Two Scarlatti operatic excerpts followed the Corelli work. Mezzo-soprano
Deanna Boylan was confident and her pitch was precise. Her facial ex-
pressions corresponded nicely to the characters' emotions as expressed in
the music, rendering the foreign lyrics more easily understandable.
Michele Derr, on the other hand, appeared nervous and occasionally slip-
ped out of tune on high passages.
Henry Purcell's "Golden" Sonata No. 9 further exemplified the Baroque
and Rococo styles with gay ornamentation, improvisation, and powerful
tensions in the violins and continuo. Three excerpts from the composer's
operas were also performed.
The ensemble's final selections, all by G. F. Handel, included the Trio-
Sonata in G Minor, and two operatic duets and arias.
Sunday's concert was the Barococo Ensemble's last of the season.
Although this way my first exposure to the group as a whole, I have heard
two of its members, Rebecca Chudacoff and Carol Bundra, concertmistress
and first cellist respectively of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. Ann Ar-
bor is fortunate to have such a fine group of musicians. The Ensemble
promises to bring further enjoyment of stylistically accurate vocal and in-
strumentalBaroque and Rococo music.

Pryor before
the press
What makes Pryor's performance so
rich is that his insights are com-
municated with a depth of humor and
hatred that wont be reduced to empty
Twice, he drops his humorous guns to
make a social statement: he says of
rapists, "That's some vile shit, to go
and take somebody's humanity like
that," and in a routine about dogs, slips
in the pointed aside that "animals don't
have no racism." Both moments are
trite as Trinidad. Rather than telling us
about life, a Pryor routine makes us
feel it in our bones, makes us laugh with
the recognition of our collective
reality. The message of Pryor's racial
humor isn't that whites harbor some
disgusting attitudes towards blacks
(although that's implicit); he acts out
how each group copes-blacks more by
a nothing-to-lose will for survival, and
whites not so much by themselves, as
by the protective insulation of their
dominant position in society.
And the bottom line isn't contempt,
but compassion. When Pryor gets down
to universal nitty-gritty like the fear.
behind the Macho myth, he hasn't
forgotten racism; he's merely tran-
scended it. That's the mark of-a comic
who knows both the powers and the
limits of anger. It's the mark of
someone who's played the show biz
game by his own rules-and won.

The Ann Arbor Flm d speraf ve presents t Aud A
(Stanely Kubrick, 1971) 7& 9:15-AUD A
A bit of the in-out-in-out and the old ultra-violence. Very horrorshow, this
nightmare vision of the not-too-distant future is perhaps Kubrick's best
work. Best Picture, Best Director, New York film Critics Award. "A
tour deforce of extraordinary images, music, words and feelings . . .
dazzles the senses and the mind."-N.Y. TIMES. Stars MALCOLM

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