Swivel Stories "R" Him


As a huge fan of stand-up comedy, I'm going to admit something here that probably isn't going to be all that popular of an opinion. And here it goes... I am a huge fan of Richard Pryor when it comes to his acting, but I've never really liked his stand-up routines.

The thing is, I didn't even realize this until about 10 years ago when a friend threw on the comedy special, Here And Now. Being such a fan of Pryor as an actor, I was surprised that I wasn't more familiar with his material, especially since the album was out during the peak of my stand-up comedy discovery stage. I was even more surprised that I wasn't enjoying the show.

I think this has to do with the swivel style comedy that he uses to tell his tales. I'm not sure if swivel style is an official term, but it's the best thing that I could come up with to try to summarize the technique where a comedian walks a fine line between stand-up comedy and a one-man stage play. The performer will swivel one way to portray one character then swivel back to respond as themselves. For some reason, this style really gets my goat.

This swivel-style involves a lot of projecting of opinions that really bothers me. For example, when I used to go to the bars, I tended to be a crazy magnet. If there is a guy with a grocery bag on his head talking to his sock, he will inevitably try to strike up a conversation or at least put on a show, and I used to entertain these people as I was seeking the story.

It seems like without fail, this type of person would always get to the point where they would say something lame and follow it up with something like, "Look at this guy over here all..." then announce some feeling that is just not accurate. I hate when this happens to me, and I hate witnessing it happen with others, even these fictional characters in a stand-up routine.

I can also only take so much of people giving voices to inanimate objects. "The dog was like...," "The car was all...," "The birds kept going..." I don't mind storytelling where objects are given characteristics like, "It seemed that the car was out to get me," it's when the storyteller goes into that voice, and that voice is what makes up a majority of Pryor's routine.

I don't think he's doing anything wrong in making this choice, it's just not a style that is entertaining to me. I think it stems back to my youth when my stepmom and stepsister they did that type of talking for the animals all the time, again I don't entirely know why but I hated this at the time and still hate it now. Maybe it's because people have been so far off when playing that game with me that I just don't like seeing it being played at all.

Anyways, I just wasn't as enthusiastic about the two stand-up routines that took place during the show and as a stand-up comedy fan, I thought I would take the opportunity to try and work through why and am not fully sure if I did a good job.

Other than that, I loved this episode. Once again, I recognized a majority of these sketches right out the gate and I like how, unlike Carlin, who I like better as a stand-up, Pryor actually performed in the sketches which I personally think is where he shines.

And now that I'm done with that, I give you...

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. The show started like normal with a sketch where Chevy Chase falls down only Garrett Morris interrupts the sketch and informs Chevy that he wants to do the fall because Richard Pryor is the host so it would be more fitting. Morris gives it a shot but does it half-assed, and Chevy shows him how it's done with a massive fall.

  2. Richard Pryor does the opening monolog, and the intro above breaks down what I think about that, okay not great, but it's me not him.

  3. Samurai Hotel!!! I love the Samurai and totally forgot/didn't know that it started with both Belushi and Pryor.

  4. Gil Scott-Heron sings Johannesburg (I've been a fan of Gil since discovering Whitey on the Moon in high school.)

  5. They then brought back this Looks at Book sketch, this time Jane Curtin interviewed Pryor's character about his book white like me, which was pretty much the script to Eddie Murphy's sketch in the future where he dresses up like a white guy for a day and learns that it's great.

  6. Once again they give us the New Dad fake add that I wasn't all that impressed with when they aired it earlier in the season.

  7. This went into a quick transition sketch where Pryor is part of a police line-up where he's obviously been roughed up by the police, and it's him and three white guys for the suspect to choose between.

  8. This led into the Chevy Chase, Richard Pryor word association sketch where the two try and out racism one another.

  9. Back to the reoccurring Pong sketch that I'm growing to be a fan of where it's just a Pong screen playing the game as two guys discuss their day, this time it was about one of the character's horrible defeat at a hockey game. Things always go horribly for this guy.

  10. There was then a sketch with a family dinner where Aykroyd was the dad griping about how "the Blacks" were taking over everything now that "they've" moved into the neighborhood and one of "them" is now his boss. Throughout the bit, his family members have reason to leave, and when they came back, they found that they've been replaced by a black person which the dad doesn't notice even though it's happening right under his nose.

  11. And now, it's time for the news. This week was back to being more topical and cutting using specific events from the day which led me to wonder if the writers switch out who is in charge because it seems to go back and forth between being cutting and being just one note.

  12. The news was interrupted by the fake Spuds beer commercial I already told you about just a couple days ago. I didn't realize just how much they recycled their bits.

  13. I was pleased to see Gilda Radner as Emily Litella, one of my favorite characters that she does, that miss reads one word in the article she is rebutting which makes her rant and rave about a misread topic. This one wasn't the best, but I am thrilled that this means I will be seeing more from her very soon. The news ended with the hearing impairment joke which goes in and out of being funny to me.

  14. Back to the police line-up, this time it's Pryor, a fridge, a duck and a nun.

  15. This quick sketch was followed by another quick sketch where Pryor is a Special Ops Agent that accidentally takes his suicide pill when getting the tools for his next mission.

  16. There was then a Muppets sketch that was funny with a bit of a “drinking is bad” theme to it without being preachy at all.

  17. Back to the police line-up, this time it is Pryor and three white cops for the suspect to choose from.

  18. I instantly knew what this sketch was the moment I saw the set. This was the first time so far that I got chills from being excited about what I was about to see. Then the Richard Pryor Exorcist sketch started, and I was a happy fan.

  19. Pryor then came out and introduced the Albert Brooks short which had Albert sick in bed while sticking to his commitment to create content all alone with a camera with remote control zoom. There was a lot of griping about filmmaking which I found fun having worked in the field in the past but didn't really have much as far of a storyline, but that seems to be an ongoing theme.

  20. There was a weird conspiracy sketch where it looked like Richard Pryor was about to do another routine only to be interrupted by a fan yelling about the JFK assassination, the fan then gets shot, and the sketch is done.

  21. I was expecting it to then go into the Pryor routine but no, instead Pryor's wife at the time, Shelley comes out and does a poem about carousel horses and racism which wasn't all that funny, but it was pretty interesting.

  22. Then we got the second routine I was expecting but not really looking forward to (sorry fellow stand-up fans.)

  23. Finally, Gil Scott-Heron finished off the show with A Lovely Day.

As much as I wanted the Samurai Hotel sketch to be my favorite because of how much I remember and like the character, my instant reaction to the Exorcist sketch was enough to put it up top with the Pryor v Chase Racism Off rounding off the top 3.


See More From Richard Prior:

Hear More From Gil Scott-Heron:

Matt Bunker

I started out with a goal of becoming a paid screenwriter. I had no interest in any other aspect of filmmaking. I received and scholarship to The Vancouver Film School's Writing for Film and Television program where I graduated in 2005. I fell in love with being on set during my first non-school produced short, . I loved being around all the creative people, seeing people having fun while working. The whole liking your job was a new world to me, so I decided to give it a shot. I volunteered for any project I could, doing what ever was needed. The set was my Film School this time. While working as a PA on a feature I was informed that the DP wanted the three tallest PAs to help out in the grip and electric department. That is when I found the department that felt like the best fit for me while I continued to write.