Chris Redd Credits Richard Pryor for Helping Him Deal With Social Anxiety
Despite choosing a career that requires him to tell jokes in front of rooms full of potential hecklers, the kid version of stand-up comedian Chris Redd suffered from debilitating social anxiety, he told KCRW’s The Treatment. “So I had to figure out how I was going to talk in front of people, and (with) a stutter on top of that.”
Clearly, the guy who made it to Saturday Night Live worked it out, and he credits Richard Pryor with helping him get there. But experiencing the legendary comic wasn’t always easy when he was a kid. Redd’s father owned a lot of Pryor albums, but as a member of a “church-going family,” young Chris wasn’t allowed to listen to them. Of course, that didn’t stop him from sneaking repeated listens to his dad’s tapes, starting when he was five or six.
Young Redd was “terrified” to talk to people, he says. But listening to Pryor and the way the comic openly discussed the dark moments in his personal life was a revelation. “The way he was so vulnerable about these dark things made me feel better about the things I was going through,” says Redd. “As we get to middle school and high school, and I'm having these issues and these problems, and the way he just laughed at his pain, it just really inspired me to be creative with my pain in the same way.”
Redd was so committed to becoming like Pryor that he’d purposely go to sleep listening to the comedy albums. (He’d figured that what you hear when you sleep will affect you when you wake up. Hard to argue with the results.) Redd was amazed at the way Pryor could laugh at himself, even creating comedy about the time he set himself on fire despite knowing that people were making jokes at his expense.
“It was just like, ‘Man, nothing's off limits!’” says Redd. “And nobody can come at you and say anything that affects you if you can look at yourself and have self-awareness. That level of vulnerability and using that really, really helped me a lot. It just shows that there's really no mistakes in life, only experiences that you can utilize to tell your story.”
That realization helped Redd turn to a career in comedy — that and the fact that “comedy seemed like a way to engage with girls.” If Pryor could turn humiliating mistakes into something that people could laugh at and learn from, then so could Redd. “I used to think about all the things I used to do in the streets and (how) all that was wasted time,” Redd says. “But now I'm making art off of the experiences I've been through, and it's all because I looked up to people who did better than me.”