“Everybody and their mother is called a genius today,” said Spike Lee, who paused to emphasize his point. “Not true. Richard Pryor is. He’s a man who bared his soul naked every time he performed.”
Pryor looked on from a wheelchair in the wings of the Paramount Theater’s stage, his body diminished but his spirit high.
The famed comedic actor was being honored with a lifetime achievement award from Par’s MTV Films at the premiere of Lee’s “The Original Kings of Comedy.”
On hand were three of its stars, Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric the Entertainer, as well as Muhammad Ali.
Co-star Bernie Mac was unable to attend, shooting “What’s the Worst That Could Happen” for MGM in Chicago.
“Only two men have anything to do with me standing on this stage tonight,” Harvey said reverentially. “My father, who died in April, and Richard Pryor. They just calling us kings. The real king is Richard Pryor. I’m a 43-year-old man, so I know that.”
Lee said that the shooting of the film (done live over two nights on location in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this year) was mostly spontaneous.
“But I was very happy to have been able to shoot John Leguizamo’s ‘Freak’ (live) for HBO, so that gave me some training,” Lee said.
“We’re very proud of what we did,” remarked Hughley, who’d not seen any footage until Thursday night. “But it’s a little strange to see it. It’s like stepping outside of yourself.”
Among the royalty on hand were producer Van Toffler, Par’s Jonathan Dolgen, Rob Friedman and Arthur Cohen; plus guests including Magic Johnson, Jamie Foxx, Sean Daniel, David Permut, Arsenio Hall, Jay Polstein, Tom Freston and Ron Yerxa.