At the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, California, Richard Pryor performs his famous stand up comedy routine in front of an audience from various circumstances. Making fun of just about everyone and everything, regardless of race or even species, Pryor demonstrates why he is a legendary comedian in his first, but not his last, concert movie.
Opening with a mysterious message that Patti LaBelle appeared but was unable to be shown for reasons of time, this classic concert movie wastes no time in cutting to the chase. Once the titles are over, Pryor launches straight into his act, cheerfully sending up the folks who are not in their seats yet, and then it's on with the show. Pryor's undeniable talent here demonstrates how his innate likeability on stage translates to audiences of any background, as can be heard by the response of the crowd in this film: they positively howl with laughter, constantly applaud and shout encouragement to the entertainer.
The direction could have been better, with long shots when you want closeups and vice versa, and when Huey P. Newton is introduced by Pryor to be in the audience, we never get one single look at him. Contrast that with the bloke taking photographs at the start of the show, forever immortalised on film by the comedian half-jokingly telling him to stop. But what you want to hear is the dialogue, and that's what you get, an hour and a quarter of frequently hilarious observations and jokes; you're surprised he manages to pack so much into so little time, as you could have easily listened to him for another hour and a quarter (there's no encore).
While a concert movie like Eddie Murphy Raw has a not-so-hidden undercurrent of bitterness about everyone except Murphy to sour its humour, the target here is the always sympathetic Pryor as well as the foibles of the people he sees around him. Everything is given a voice, from John Wayne and Muhammad Ali (Pryor is an excellent physical mimic), to various animals and parts of the body. For pets, he has a sadly deceased pet monkey who had only sex on his mind, a little horse who only did two things, eat and shit, and dogs who are not entirely on his side ("Let's fuck him!"). Pryor lives in a world that has to be survived against the odds, but crucially sees the funny side, whether it's of his troubles with the police or his heart attack.
That old stand up stand by, the nostalgic trip back to childhood, is given an edge by the routines about getting beaten - Pryor may joke about him, but his father sounds distinctly unfriendly. Everyone seems out to get him, whether its to foil his plans (a journey through the woods is fraught with danger - the business about snakes and deer is superbly related) or to beat him up (watch his hysterical mime of being kicked in the balls) as his days as a not-very-good boxer are described. You may be offended by Pryor's strong language and sexual references, but he has such an engaging personality that very few could fail to be won over by him. Considering the pain he has been through in his private life both before and after filming it, there's more depth to Richard Pryor Live in Concert than you might expect. And it's still very funny.