Multiple sclerosis may have taken Richard Pryor from the stage, but the profane yet profound humor that has influenced at least three generations of comics remains timeless.
That ''African-American'' Is Still Crazy: Good S**t From the Vaults, a nine-CD box set from Rhino Records, will bring together for the first time all seven of his Warner Bros. albums, plus a rare 25-minute interview from 1983 and more than 90 minutes of previously unreleased material.
The set, whose title is a politically correct play on one of his most famous album titles, will sell for $79.98 and be released Oct. 17. In addition to loving testimonials from Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Morgan Freeman, Isaac Hayes, Lily Tomlin and Chris Rock, the box contains a biography, an essay from Easy Rawlins series author Walter Mosley and annotated notes that put the material into perspective.
''His impact was so profound on so many people, from comics to musicians to regular Joes,'' says Jennifer Lee, Pryor's manager and former wife. ''Richard hasn't been replaced. Chris Rock is probably the closest, and he's great, but he's not Richard.''
Lee says that Pryor ''has good days and bad days'' and that his spirit has been lifted by the project. Several tributes are in the works in conjunction with the set and his 60th birthday (Dec. 1) to honor the multiple Grammy winner, who also has appeared in more than 40 films.
''It really makes me happy that he's going to be here to enjoy it all,'' Lee says. ''And for those people who say it's sad that Richard is ill, I can't go there. What would be sad would be if he was dead. Six feet under is sad.''
-- Steve Jones