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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Richard Pryor: Here and Now (1983)

"He's the best in the North, South, East, and West. I've never seen him in person but I'm gonna see him tonight."
- Audience member

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer   
Published: February 05, 2002

Stars: Richard Pryor
Director: Richard Pryor

MPAA Rating: R for (explicit language and content)
Run Time: 01h:34m:37s
Release Date: January 29, 2002
UPC: 043396066748
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+D+C+ D-

DVD Review

In the 1970s, Richard Pryor was the greatest standup comic alive. His mix of profanity, insightful social commentary, richly complex characters, and overall antagonistic nature made him a huge hit. Breaking away from the sanitized "safe" comedy of Bill Cosby, Pryor would talk about politics, race relations, drug use, ghettos and more. In doing so, he not only created great comedy, but also cutting social commentary, paving the way for most black comedians working today. After he lit himself on fire and nearly died while under the influence of cocaine in the early 1980s, Pryor's comedy began to sag. While other comedians picked up the slack (most noticeably Eddie Murphy, who probably couldn't have made Beverly Hills Cop and Raw without Pryor's influence), most people mourned the artistic loss of an amazing comedian.Here And Now was made after the fire incident, and while it shows that Pryor could still be funny, it also shows just how far he had fallen. The film opens with shots of excited audience members raving about Pryor, intercut with footage of Pryor talking about doing live performing, further intercut with footage of Pryor performing in various clubs. This quickly moves into the film proper, which is one performance in New Orleans. Right from the beginning, it's obvious that the film could have been helped tremendously by judicious editing. Pryor spends several minutes talking to the audience, commenting on latecomers trying to get to their seats in the front row. The jokes aren't particularly funny (although I could see how they might be more humorous in person). The opening sequence sets up a lazy, laconic tone that for the most part isn't broken during the course of the film.Of course, being Richard Pryor, some scenes are bound to be hilarious. Some of the highlights include advice on marriage, comments on the Reagan administration (which might be lost on some younger audiences now, but is funny if you know the context), Pryor recounting experiences from his trip to Africa, and talking about concerns with a particular sexual organ. These bits are easily the equal of the bulk of Pryor's work in his prime. The trouble is that to get to them you have to wade through a sizeable amount of dull material, and at times the search doesn't seem worth it.There is one sequence, though, that is reason enough for seeing the film. This sequence has Pryor creating a character named Motif, who is an insatiable junkie. Motif effortlessly conjures up the best of Pryor's work: that potent mix of dark humor with chilling reality. While Pryor's characterization is undoubtedly funny, one is often struck with how serious the subject is. The climax of this sequence comes when Pryor acts out Motif shooting up. The moment of shooting up is thoroughly uncomfortable, and the wind down is darkly humorous, until the end comes for Motif and the joke, and the lights black out. The audience is stunned to silence, and then begin to applaud wildly. The Motif sequence is classic Pryor, and his fans (and even people who aren't fans) should see Here And Now just for that.Some of the material walks a thin line between hilarity and not being funny at all. For example, he brings out his Mudbone character at one point, much to the delight of the audience. But by now the character seems tired, a worn down greatest hit that Pryor is obliged to resurrect night after night because that's why people are paying to see him. Another section of the show has Pryor recounting tales of his drunken escapades. And while a lot of it is funny ("I'd wake up and find myself doing 90 on the highway,"), there's always something missing, some factor that could have pushed it over the edge and made the bit truly hilarious. And while for most comedians, simply funny is good enough. For Richard Pryor, simply funny falls short of the mark.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: This film, simply put, looks bad. First of all, it's grainier than a wheat field before the harvest. Second, the further away the camera gets from Pryor, the more detail gets lost. But this doesn't happen in a linear fashion, it happens in an exponential fashion. So we're in a medium shot and we can reasonably make out Pryor's facial expressions, and then we cut to a long shot and suddenly Pryor looks like a glob of different colors. No matter what kind of shot we're in, things look muddy, and at times the red of Pryor's shirt bleeds over slightly onto his jacket. On the other hand, there's no compression artifacts. The film is presented on one side in an anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 widescreen version, while the other side is in pan-and-scan.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio, a simple mono track, actually doesn't sound half bad. There's not much hiss, and Pyror's dialogue always comes through clearly, even if he doesn't enunciate all the time. Even the hecklers in the audience are audible and understandable, which is a good thing otherwise several jokes would have been lost.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Here And Now has no extras. On the plus side, we at least get a wide range of subtitle options.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

In the 1970s, Richard Pryor was a trailblazing comic pioneer. By the early 1980s he had fallen back on the scatological humor that was prevalent but never dominated his earlier work. And while it can be funny, it can't sustain a full-length feature film. Had this been edited down, it could have been almost as good as Pryor's previous video releases. However, not even editing could kill this feeling that Pryor was simply replaying his best-known material in many ways. While this is a terrible place for new Pryor fans to start, it is worth seeing at least once for the Motif sequence, which is nothing short of magnificent.


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