Richard Pryor’s Comedic Legacy Lives On
Five episodes into it, it already started. It actually started after the first episode: uppity Negroes nationwide downplayed the important intelligence and comedic genius that is Aaron McGruder’s animated series, The Boondocks (Sunday, 11 p.m. Cartoon Network)—all because of one word, NIGGA.
What disturbs me most about situations like this is that a small group of black people feels that they have a right to police the entertainment of others.
I’m tired of educated and financially well off black people assuming leadership roles in our assumed collective identity every time a black entertainer says or does something that they don’t like.
It happened to Martin Lawrence when African-Americans protested depiction of black women in his hit show Martin (Remember Shanay-Nay—Martin’s super ghetto female neighbor and the comedians alter-ego). It happened to Cedric the Entertainer when he was accused of “cooning” on his short-lived Fox television series, and now it’s happening to Brother Aaron.
What we are dealing with, with McGruder’s comic strip turned cartoon series, is more than simple ghetto philosophy or nigga-ism. It is the most poignant thought provoking and accurate depiction of Black People ever to grace the small screen.
The Boondocks is the story of a grandfather who is raising his two grandsons due to the death of their parents and with their inheritance moves them to an affluent white community in the suburbs hoping to provide them a better future. Huey is an afro-wearing, pro-black pre-teen who speaks with a biting intelligence and thinks with a culturally conscious slant, and Riley is his corn-row braid-wearing future gangster rapper younger brother, who though nowhere near as conscious or book smart as Huey, more than makes up for it with his intimate knowledge of “the game” (street culture). Riley is a metaphor for today’s urban black youth more concerned with popular culture and trends than the struggle that it took to allow him to enjoy them.
Grandpa is the embodiment of too many black grandparents nationwide who can’t enjoy the fruits of a long life’s labor because they have to raise their grandchildren.
The late great Richard Pryor probably would have been proud to see that the style of comedy that he trademarked has evolved to the place that it has in state of the art animation. Black comedy is better than ever. We’re witnessing Richard Pryor’s influence play out in glorious fashion. Comics like Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Dave Chappelle and dozens of other comedians not only make you laugh but make you think. Aaron McGruder is just as funny and just as brilliant as any other comic I just mentioned.
The Boondocks displays the same pride in difference and makes the same lunge towards oneness that made Pryor’s comedy the standard to which all comedians aspire.
Richard Pryor pioneered the art of ghetto character invention as a point of pride and introspection (characters such as Mud Bone) as opposed to a wise grin, foot shuffling hustler stereotypes that has predominated the black male image in Hollywood. I hope that Pryor was able to watch at least one episode of The Boondocks before he passed away, and too feel the tinge of pride knowing that it couldn’t have happened without him.
Boondock’s is truly great, like Pryor’s comedy, not only because it is the funniest thing on television but because it doesn’t lose its social relevance—representing black people, warts and all, for the world to see.
It might be too real for some, which is what I truly think bothers those that want Brother McGruder to tone it down or homogenize it because the Kente Kloth Klan (the Black KKK) can’t stand media depictions of black people that are not as educated as they, and because they feel their image is the “positive” image of black people. For them to commandeer my entertainment and media representation is audacious.
The Boondocks is not the Cosby Show, but is what the Cosby Show would or should look like if it premiered in this millennium. So to all the uppity negroes nationwide that want to hate on McGruder’s genius—Nigga hush, the Boondocks is on.
Charles Jones is an editor at YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia (www.youthoutlook.org), a project of Pacific News Service. a