In remembering Richard Pryor, Jay Smooth emphasizes his honesty and his compassion. What was so moving for me, though, was that Pryor was able to apply both of those attitudes to himself, and beyond that, he did so without either one overwhelming the other. His awe-inspiring technical chops as a comic* allowed him to talk about his equally awe-inspiring human faults without minimizing them on the one hand or falling into self-hatred on the other. He did this by making an implicit agreement with his audience: I will tell the absolute truth about myself and make it funny; you will laugh and through your laughter absolve me. But it only worked if we laughed, and you could see in his eyes that he knew what was riding on each performance: no laughter, no peace. He was both desperate and very, very brave. He placed his soul in our hands and then boldly won it back each and every night. A lot of times when he was talking about an interaction he had with someone (or something – his heart, his wife’s car, the pipe) he would actually take on thier persona and start referring to the audience collectively as "Richard". He actually made you see the world through his eyes. At one point in his concert film, Live on the Sunset Strip , he transforms himself into a mafia-affiliated nightclub owner he knew back in Youngstown, Ohio, who used to tell him "murder stories". He takes on the vocal tone, the body language, the little bits of Italian sprinkled into his sentences, everything. After graphically reminiscing about killing a teamster ("Big mouth. Hurt a lot of people," is his dead-on justification), he turns with a look of genuine concern in his eyes. "What’s the matter, Rich? You don’t look too good …" Although technically it's part of a comedy bit - and it is hilarious - it remains one of the most chillingly effective dramatic performances I have ever seen. Your soul is safe, Richard. We’re gonna be laughing down here for quiet a while. *and please let’s not forget that.