Friday, January 13, 2006

Run it down!

The second time I taught the film/literature elective at UNHo, I decided to incorporate a unit on comedy. Comedy is something scholars rarely study because, after all, scholars can't laugh.

Since I was tackling comedy, I had to show Stir Crazy, still one of the funniest things I've seen on film, academia be damned. Slapstick, parody, screwball - it's all there. And Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder together were great; Pryor teaching Wilder to be black in Silver Streak, with shoe polish a key component of this transformation, helped break the mold for mocking and embracing racial stereotypes - - in the truly comedic sense, not the "Ha ha, he said 'nigger,' now I can, too" Aryan way.

Richard was the one we could relate to.

The straight man, a minority not only in terms of race, but in terms of understanding his situation, digging his scene, cutting through the jive - despite being surrounded by crazy people, including Wilder, a total spoof of the "new sensitive man" of the 70's.

Richard Pryor got it.

"White people be goin, 'Why do you hold your things?' 'Cause you done took everything else, muthafucka!"

"[As a TV preacher] People are always asking me, 'Reverend; if you need money so bad, why don't you sell one of your houses, or cars or get rid of some of that jewelry?' And I always reply, 'Are you crazy!'"

"You go down there looking for justice, that's what you find - just us."

"When that fire hit your ass, it will sober your ass up quick! I saw something, I went, 'Well, that's a pretty blue. You know what? That looks like fire!' Fire is inspirational. They should use it in the Olympics, because I ran the 100 in 4.3."

"[As Grover Muldoon in Silver Streak] Jesus Christ, man, is that how you murdered your victims? Put them in a car and bounced them to death?"

"Freebase? What's free about it?"

"I was in jail, too, man. It's cold-blooded in the jail. Nixon wouldn't have lasted two days. They'da turned him out. Niggers was waiting on Nixon to come to jail - 'What's happenin, Tricky Dick?'"

"There's a thin line between to laugh with and to laugh at."

"'What it is? Huh? Run it down!'"

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