Richard Pryor was the man. His passing is mourned. This appreciation is by Dr. Edward Rhymes for the Black Commentator:

"As long as the colored man look to white folks to put a crown on what he say.... as long as he looks to white people for approval... then he ain't  never gonna find out who he is and what he's about" – August Wilson Jr.

If Helen of Troy is "the face that launched a thousand ships," then Richard Pryor is the voice that launched a thousand comedians and artists of every hue. He not only made people laugh, but he inspired others to make people laugh. However, Rich's greatest contribution to society at large and the Black community in particular, was his courage to address societal ills with his unique brand of humor and insight, without apology or regret.

Richard_pryorEven when his routine was generously sprinkled with "Nigger" and "bitch," he was laying down a vocabulary of empowerment. A lexicon that minimized the impact of white oppression and contextualized the struggle. Rich made it clear, he made it real and his humor made it bearable. Rich took the dialogue of the street corner, the barbershop, the Black church, the Black family  and the Black community and aimed it at mainstream America with laser-like focus – revealing white America's true thoughts and intentions about race and racism without even trying to. That was the true social genius of Richard Pryor. He was the incidental activist, the disaffected philosopher. He concerned himself first and foremost with answering the question: Is it funny? All else, in regard to his craft, was secondary.

The fact that his humor was steeped in social significance, tells us volumes about the man. Rich was also the first male comedian, Black, white or otherwise, who gave a real voice to women in his comedy. In Pryor's routines, women gave every bit as good as they got. For all the rants about his self-indulgences, addictions and misogynistic leanings, his humor was a shining example of equality in a society rife with inequities. {read]