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Who You Callin' A Nigga?


"I wish that every new and young comedian would understand what Richard was about and not confuse his genius with his language usage."
-- Comedian Bill Cosby, on the legacy of the late Richard Pryor

"I say 'nigger' 100 times every morning; it keeps my teeth white."
-- Comedian Paul Mooney

"There were three geniuses in our lifetime: God, Mark Twain and Richard Pryor."
-- Comedian Dick Gregory

Richard Pryor reportedly will be buried on Saturday (Dec. 17) in an invitation-only funeral service in California. I would like to see all-day television network coverage on Richard's funeral -- like they did for the late former President Ronald Reagan -- but I'm not going to hold my breath.

And why not? Richard Pryor is a national treasure.

I watched the funerals of national music icons Ray Charles, Luther Vandross and Rick James via the Internet so I'm hoping to see Rich's memorial service somewhere online this Saturday. (*crossing fingers*)

But before I say a final goodbye to arguably the King God of Comedy, I wanted to leave you with these two great tributes to Richard Pryor. One tribute was written by author/critic Nelson George and the other was penned by hip-pop culture critic Mark Anthony Neal. The interesting thing about these two write-ups is they both use the word "Nigger" in their titles. But I also like how they examine Rich P's usage of the "N" word.

Certainly, Richard's legacy goes beyond how he used the "N" word, but he will probably be remember for -- in my opinion -- his "proper" usage of the "N" word. In my opinion, there are far too many hip-hoppers and comedians today who use the "N" word out of the context in the lieu of a rhyme or for a punchline. I feel many of them shouldn't be allowed to say the word, period.

Richard Pryor eventually stop using the "N" word, after his 1979 trip to Kenya (Africa). He was enlightened by his experience of meeting and speakiing with South Africans who had pride and self-worth in their own homeland.

"I also left regretting ever having uttered the word 'nigger' on a stage or off it," he wrote his 1995 autobiography Pryor Convictions. "It was a wretched word. Its connotations weren't funny, even when people laughed. To this day I wish I'd never said the word. I felt its lameness. It was misunderstood by people. They didn't get what I was talking about.

"Neither did I. And so I vowed never to say it again."

Nelson's "RIP For a Crazy Nigger" is a very brief but poignant tribute, in which he celebrates Richard's genius. He writes:
As an artist he grew from polite to piercing, from careful to cool, from safe to sacrilegious during the same years the civil rights movemnet turned from nonviolence to nationalism. He made humor that was political, humanistic and soul satisfying.He grew from Cosby imitator into the man who inspired the Wayan's brothers breakthrough In Living Color, Chris Rock's wiltering stand up and Dave Chappelle's irreverence.

M.A.N. wrote a more analytical tribute called "A Nigger Re-Constructed" exploring Richard's comic nuances and his usage of the word "Nigger." At the end of the piece, he leaves readers with this:

If there's a lesson to be learned by the hip-hop generation, it's not that we should put our "niggas" away in the closet, but that we should be clear that with each invocation of the "niggas" that we are shedding light on the humanity of those folks who still live a reality defined by the dirty, nasty business of race, gender, and poverty in the United States. Richard Pryor was a "nigger" unreconstructed, and for that we are thankful.
Word.

And finally, read Rain Pryor's tribute "My Daddy." I shed a tear reading this eulogy to her father.

Thanks for making us laugh, Richard.

Love Always . . .

Holla!

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