Richard Pryor: "Just Us" and Elmer's Glue
It was Christmas 1977 and my parents gave my brother Stephen and me a three-album compilation titled 25 Years of Recorded Comedy. This compilation included Stan Freberg, Jonathan Winters, Lenny Bruce, Shelley Berman, Cheech and Chong, The Firesign Theatre, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, Monty Python, and Richard Pryor. I remember the first time listening to this compilation. I was sitting in our living room with my brother and father. In many cases it was the first time we had ever heard these comics.
Now, my father, like Richard Pryor, has multiple sclerosis. In 1977 he was beginning to show visible signs of the effects of the disease. His reflexes were very slow and he walked without balance as if he were about to fall at any moment. Well, when Richard Pryor's "Just Us" started to play my father jumped so quick out of this chair. He ran over to the stereo and practically broke the turntable as ripped the needle off the record (you would have never known he had MS). You see Pryor's bit, "Just Us" is laced with "niggers" and four letter words that our virgin ears had never heard before. He took the physical album and smeared Elmer's Glue on Side 5, track 2 - Pryor's "Just Us."
Well, since my father had acted so quickly Stephen and I hadn't really heard what the fuss was about. So, a few days after dad had censored our listening experience I very carefully took an Exacto knife and peeled the glue off the album. Isn't it interesting that I could not listen to a comedy record with curses but I had access to an Exacto knife? After the I got the glue off the record my brother and I sat and finally listened to "Just Us." The way my father reacted we thought that this was going to be the worst (or best) thing we had ever heard. To our dismay, the actual "bit" did not live up to the hype. For starters, I had knicked the record a few times so there was audible scratches and pops. Secondly, we were so young we really didn't understand what "Just Us" was about anyway. We just laughed with he cursed and after a few listens we went back to listening to the other tracks.
Richard Pryor died this past weekend of complications associated with his multiple sclerosis. Even though we did not enjoy "Just Us" the experience exposed us to Pryor's comedy and years of laughter. I'll leave you with "Just Us" and one of my favorite Pryor moments--a sketch from his 1975 Saturday Night Live appearance.
Richard Pryor - Just Us
Richard Pryor / Chevy Chase - Word Association (SNL, 12/13/75)