The 10 Best Dark Humor Jokes from Richard Pryor
There are countless greats in stand-up history, but you’re in rarefied air when someone can drop your name as the possible GOAT and be met with responses of, “Yeah, good call.” That’s the level that Richard Pryor achieved. But with those highest of highs also came the lowest of lows.
There is a litany of reasons why a Pryor biopic has been lingering in development hell for decades. For one, his life was so full of tragedy that they’d never be able to fit it all in. Hell, in 1986, Pryor wrote, directed and starred in one himself, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, and that barely scratched the surface.
For another, there’s no way to dramatize these stories that will be able to hold a candle to how Pryor’s stand-up performances unleashed the magical touch needed to turn the darkest stories into comedic gold...
On Nuclear War
“The motherfuckers say, ‘Hey, man, if they had a nuclear war, they wouldn’t have to drop no bombs. All they have to do is tell us they’re going to.’ Then they’ll announce to us, ‘Find the fallout shelters.’ But ain’t a motherfucker here that knows where one is at: ‘Right! Oh, shit… Eh, wait a minute, I knew where it was in high school. Wait a minute…’
“They say we’ll have a half an hour warning. That ain’t enough time. I want at least nine or 10 months.”
Word Association, ‘Saturday Night Live’
Pryor hosted Saturday Night Live during the show’s first season. His sketch with Chevy Chase provided one of the most subversive moments of the show’s entire run.
On Manly Heartbreak
“Men here, have you ever had your heart broke? Women get their heart broke, and they cry. Men don’t do that shit. Men hold that shit in like, ‘It don’t hurt…,’ but walkin’ around and getting hit by trucks. ‘Didn’t he see that truck?’ ‘Motherfucker, he wouldn’t have seen a 747 ‘cause his heart was broken.’”
The Gunslinger, ‘The Richard Pryor Show’
This cowboy sketch gives us a slow burn but a worthwhile payoff. Bonus points for the brief glimpse into an alternate world where Pryor actually got to star in Blazing Saddles.
“I stopped drinking ‘cause I got tired of waking up in my car, driving 90.”
“I went to Zimbabwe. It’s a new country. It’s about three years old now. It used to be Rhodesia before they killed all them white motherfuckers. It’s the only country I’ve been to where Black people kicked ass over there. Seven years, they killed motherfuckers, Jack.
“They happy too. You walk down the street, and they’re just smiling: ‘Hello. Oh, they don’t fuck with us no more, no.’ I was over there with some American brothers. I met an American brother. He came over there on vacation. He called home and said, ‘Bitch, sell all the shit. I ain’t never coming back to that mother. Sell my motorcycle and my shirt. Bring your ass on.’”
Egypt, ‘The Richard Pryor Show’
In which a discovery rewrites (white) history forever.
On Living Around White People in the Country
“I live in Hawaii. I wanted to go to a place where there was no people. And I found the place. There’s 500 people where I live. And they’re brown. I like that because you can sleep at night. ‘Cause you live around white people in the country, anything can happen. Not that I don’t trust white people. It’s just in the night, something happens to white people when you start drinking. When you hear one of them motherfuckers go, ‘Yee-haw!,’ it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. ‘Cause I know what’s next. That ‘yee-haw’ means ‘get a rope and get a Black motherfucker.’”
Rebuttal, Idi Amin Dada, ‘The Richard Pryor Show’
Having this sketch end with one of the most brutal dictators in modern history shooting up the NBC newsroom may have been one of the reasons that The Richard Pryor Show was canceled after only four episodes.
On Setting Himself on Fire
The story of the tragic 1980 incident where Pryor, while on a freebasing binge, doused himself in rum and set himself on fire would later become his most revered bit from Live on the Sunset Strip: “I’ll tell you one thing — when that fire hits your ass, that will sober your ass up QUICK! I was standing there on fire, and something said, ‘Why... That’s a pretty blue. You know what? That looks like FIRE!’
“Fire is inspirational. They should use it in the Olympics, ‘cause I did the 100-yard dash in 4.3. You know something I found out? When you’re on fire and running down the street, people will get out of your way. Except for one old drunk, he’s going, ‘Can I get a light? How about it? Just a little off the sleeve. Okay?’”