Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Woody Allen And Richard Pryor

Sunday December 1st, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

   Today is significant in the annals of standup comedy, as it is the birth date of a pair of certified legends of the field in Woody Allen (1935) and Richard Pryor (1940). They’re about as opposite as opposites get, but their contribution and influence have transcended generations of comedians.
   I can’t think of two more influential names in 20th Century standup comedy and both graduated to successful movie careers. That’s about where the parallels end though. They had very different life and career paths, but both should be studied by anyone who is serious about standup comedy.

   Woody Allen is quite simply the most prolific comedic artist of our time. Period. Who else can even come close? He started writing jokes in high school, and has kept cranking out product on a regular basis without ceasing. Between four books of humorous essays, three standup recordings, several successful plays and virtually a movie a year since the 1960s, he has had an epic output.

   I know how much hard work was required to put out the two comedy CDs and DVD that I did. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to amass the body of work Woody did. He has kept it up for decades, and continues to do it today. The discipline and talent required for that is huge.

   There are people who don’t care for his work, and that’s fine. Any art is subjective, and it goes with the territory that not everyone will appreciate anyone’s work. Still, the sheer volume of how much he was able to accomplish over one lifetime is absolutely staggering. He won’t be equaled, at least not in our lifetime. Whoever does do it will have to set out early and labor for a lifetime.

   I personally am a huge fan of Woody’s work, especially his standup comedy. His writing is as good as it gets, and I play his classic ‘The Moose’ routine in my comedy classes even now. He’s a mega talent, and his work ethic is incredible. That combination is the recipe for major success.

  Michael Jordan had it in sports. He was naturally gifted, but his work ethic was the key to what made him a legend. One without the other won’t cut it. It’s rare to have both, and that’s why the ones that do are considered superstars. In the comedy universe, Woody Allen is Michael Jordan.

   Richard Pryor was no slouch, and he was loaded with natural talent. He came along a few years after Woody Allen, but they crossed paths in New York in the 1960s. I have never found Pryor to be on my list of favorites, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect him as I totally do. He influenced countless comedians, and continues to do so to this day as does Woody. They’re both superstars.

   I don’t think Pryor had nearly the work ethic Woody Allen does, but very few artists of any ilk do. I know he struggled with drug abuse for years, and I don’t think Woody ever has. He put all of his energy into his work, and continues to. Good, bad or indifferent, Woody stayed the course. Pryor was all over the place, but he still managed to capture the pulse of a large part of society.

   My hat is off to both of them, and it’s odd that they would both be born on the same day. Who knows if that has any significance? I share a birthday with Albert Einstein, and there aren’t very many similarities there at all. He was dead before I was born, but I still think it’s pretty neat we have that in common. Woody Allen and Richard Pryor both left their marks, and I respect them.

Woody Allen is THE most prolific comic artist of our time. Nobody will touch him - at least in our lifetime.

Richard Pryor had a huge influence on the public and the comedians of his generation. He was never one of my personal favorites, but that doesn't mean I don't respect him. He was a giant.

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