African American comedy to be spotlighted by Vanderbilt; Tribute to Richard Pryor set for Jan. 23, panel discussion on Jan. 30

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The legacy of entertainer Richard Pryor and history of African American comedy will be explored by Vanderbilt University at two January events sponsored by Vanderbilt’s Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center.

“Lots of preachers are going to be giving thanks and praise to Martin Luther King Jr. this month, and justifiably so,” said Nashville comedian Robert Luke, who will perform Jan. 23 at The Belcourt Theatre as part of a “Tribute to Richard Pryor” night of comedy.

“But not many of them will give thanks and praise for Richard Pryor, a black comedian who helped all comedians break through that wall of realism, bringing life’s hurts and pains and sufferings to the stage and making them funny with his genius.”

Pryor, 65, died in December of a heart attack after years of suffering with multiple sclerosis. He is considered by many comedians to be the most influential stand-up comedian in history, and also made a mark with comedy albums, television shows and films.

“There are different types of comedians,” said comedian Damon Wayans after Pryor’s death. “There is the observational humorist, the impressionist, character creator, the self-deprecator and the dirty joke teller. What made Richard so brilliant is that he was able to incorporate all of those styles at once.”

The “Black Monday” tribute to Pryor begins at 8 p.m. on Jan. 23 at The Belcourt Theatre, near the Vanderbilt campus at 2102 Belcourt Ave. in Hillsboro Village. Admission is $5 at the door. Luke will perform, along with Renard Hirsch, BCov, Kay Jay and Just Will.

“I’m hoping that Nashvillians will come out and help us celebrate the life of a transformative performer who permanently altered the world of comedy,” Luke said. “I did some growing up in the world of basement poker, pimps and hustlers. Listening to Richard Pryor helped me to laugh through some tough times in my life and get here to the other side.”

At 6 p.m. on Jan. 30, the documentary Richard Pryor will be screened at the auditorium of Vanderbilt’s Black Cultural Center. A panel discussion on “The Evolution of Black Comedy” will follow, with panelists including Luke; Frank Dobson, executive director of the Black Cultural Center; and Lucius Outlaw, professor of philosophy and associate provost for undergraduate education.

The panel will discuss the impact of a wide range of African American comedians, including Pryor, Moms Mabley and Bill Cosby.

The film and panel discussion are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center at 615-322-2524.

Media contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS

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