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(Credit: HBO)

Film

Revisiting the time when Robin Williams roasted Richard Pryor

Over the years, there have been countless debates about who deserves the grand title of the greatest comedian in human history and two names have almost always emerged as the top contenders: Richard Pryor and George Carlin. While that argument will probably never be settled, most of us admire both for their unique sensibilities and the Robin Williams was no different.

Williams was influenced by both these legends but Pryor’s approach to comedy had a special meaning to him. In fact, Williams’ stand-up routines drew inspiration from Pryor’s core style and he admitted it himself. Williams was impressed by Pryor’s ability to climb onto a stage and be incredibly vulnerable and intimate while maintaining the comedic momentum.

“Very few people can talk about themselves being on fire and make it funny,” Williams once said in an interview. While explaining his admiration for Richard Pryor, Williams claimed that the iconic comedian was so impactful because he had an “amazing combination of anger and this incredible heart, this rage combined with this great humanity”.

Due to the media attention that Williams’ tragic suicide and the conversation that it sparked among fans worldwide, it was revealed by people close to him that the highly talented comedian had been struggling with his mental health for a while. By revisiting Pryor’s comedy and even incorporating material about substance abuse into his own routines, Williams found that comedy could be very therapeutic.

Williams had even worked with Pryor on The Richard Pryor Show which only lasted four episodes in 1977. The whole project had been conceived only because Pryor’s special had been a huge success and Williams got a chance to join it at a time when it was still very early in his career. Sadly, the show was cancelled too soon.

That same year, Williams took the opportunity to roast Pryor in a segment where it is evident that the burgeoning comedian had a lot of love and admiration for the veteran. Pryor’s work has gone on to influence several other contemporary comedians, including the wildly popular stand-up comic Dave Chappelle.

Watch Robin Williams roast Richard Pryor below.