Rolling Stone magazine has just revised its list of The Best Stand-Up Comics (top 50) and Richard Pryor has risen to #1. Quote:
“As is the case with all great artists, Richard Pryor went through an evolution in his life and work: He survived a disturbing childhood whose scary and colorful personalities shaped the basis of his early act.”
I knew that.
Disturbing childhoods have always provided great material for comedy. While writing my memoir, The Girl with the Black and Blue Doll, A Not-Very-Depressing Memoir of Childhood Depression, I had to pull up dozens of those tragicomic scenes. Wanna know my Top 3?
3. One Christmas, Mummy buys Daddy the ultimate hot new gift, an 8mm Brownie movie camera. After we kids have opened our gifts, she brings it to him in bed (since he never participated in Christmas) and we stand behind her eagerly anticipating his response. What follows is an ominous crack on the wall across from his bed as Daddy propels the camera with a pass Tom Brady would have envied. I was 7.
2. At age 8, I’m finally going to have my first birthday party, on the lawn in front of our farmhouse, and everything is perfect—right down to the monarch butterflies fluttering through my grandmother’s perennial beds. That is, until my grandfather enters the scene, stumbling amidst the guests, raving mad and accusing my mother of dropping me and my siblings off at a movie theater so she can drink in bars. The guests run to their vehicles and flee.
1. Daddy’s ’49 Plymouth coupe—with 9-year-old me in the back seat—loses its breaks on the steepest hill in Worcester, Massachusetts, the one heading down Route 9 to Shrewsbury with the heaviest traffic in the city on Saturday mornings. And guess what? It’s all my fault. I was a jinx.
I wish I could say this is fiction, but—hey—I survived. LOL.
Yes. LOL. Laughing Out Loud!
Once you survive the tragedy, you have to celebrate the comedy.
In writing my memoir, I was careful to make it uplifting. We’re told to give the readers a protagonist to root for. At the end, I checked off the chapters in a spreadsheet, marking each one as either “happy” or “sad”. I was pleased to see that my memoir’s content was equally divided between the up and down moments.
The “sad” scenes were more like WTF scenes, and that’s good. We all have to have something to motivate us in life, right?
I would have preferred a few more happy chapters, but, all in all, it makes good comedy. If this writer gig doesn’t work out, I can always try stand-up.
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