Stand-Up Sunday: Richard Pryor on the “N-Word”

Tracy Wuster

When I teach classes on race in America, I often like to use this clip as a way to talk about the “n-word,” a word that I don’t say but which I spend a whole class discussing.  After discussing the origins and history of the word, I will have my class watch the following clip from Richard Pryor’s 1982 concert film, “Live on the Sunset Strip.”

In addition to being a brilliant piece of comedy, I enjoy the clip because of the audience reaction–and I am always intrigued to watch my students watching the film.  I also enjoy this piece because Pryor’s concert was one of the first stand-up specials I watched as a young (too young) person, and I have always appreciated my brother and step-brother showing me the movie, which taught me both new swear words and introduced me to the fine art of swearing (this should serve as a warning about the language of the clip below).  The film also helped introduce me to important discussions of race, ones that I was not aware of in my sheltered, mostly white, hometown.

I like to follow this clip with a piece of music/spoken word featuring Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, and Tavis Smiley.  While not comedy per se, the clip is an enjoyable and illuminating discussion of the use of the word–one in which humor and laughter play a key role.  Enjoy.


2 responses

  1. Reblogged this on Humor in America and commented:

    Yesterday was also the birthday of Richard Pryor. Good job, December 1st.

  2. […]  But it is an art form, or should be, which I learned from watching Richard Pryor, especially his Live on the Sunset Strip movie when I was 12 or so (thanks, […]

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