That Daughter’s Crazy
British Urban Film Festival, Genesis cinema, London.
Rather than cast off the burden of being the offspring of a bonafide icon, Rain Pryor seems to have strapped it as firmly to her back as an African mother would a baby. And in this engrossing documentary she walks right into a playground of comment, confession and creative thinking on what it means not just to be the daughter of one of the geniuses of stand-up comedy, but a mixed race, multi-faith woman in a world of racial intolerance and ignorance of what religion really is.
As well as a being a comedian herself – one with a gift for characterization – Rain, daughter of Richard, is also possessed of theatrical talent, as the one-person show that forms the backbone of the film amply shows.
She talks candidly about her Jewish mother and the importance of that side of her heritage, as well as the challenges of growing up mixed race in Beverley Hllls in the ‘70s, a time when the welcoming party included a burning cross on the lawn of their new house and a daubing of ‘nigger’ on the wall. The superficiality of the girls Rain meets in High School, magnetized by her atomic Afro and minded to make assumptions about her people are, along with her maternal and paternal forbears, part of the dazzling gallery of characters she brings to life in performance.
Rain’s tonsorial tower has been dubbed a Jewfro as well as seen as a fleece of fascination for idle fingers controlled by empty minds, yet when she wears it long and straight, hey presto, she’s a white girl. Generously and fearlessly, Pryor deals with these issues in the film, which mixes excerpts of interviews with high-octane footage of her onstage backed by a live band, in New York. It is entirely refreshing to see a comedian in action with a rhythm section, and in one of the most notable insights of the post-screening Q&A, where Rain is joined by producer Daryl Sledge, she reminds us of how her musical cradle was rocked by the great and good, or rather by a super bad mutherfunker.
“We used to live above Miles Davis’ house. And he used to play the horn all the time… and there’d be records like Sketches Of Spain on so I had all of that as a kid. Oh and yeah, Miles was also my babysitter.” The friendship between the jazz legend and Richard is well documented, but Rain is also keen to point out that the latter’s talent extended into the realm of the former’s. “My dad was a musician too: he played the drums, he sang, and he was a great blues singer.” Such a heritage might have weighed heavily on more slender shoulders, but Rain, who also has a powerful singing voice, appears to be taking the possible millstone of being ‘the daughter of…’ in her stride, and as the event draws to a close with a number of pertinent questions on where America is politically, she muses on how that might affect her work. “What was happening in 1969 is basically what is happening now in 2015,” offers Sledge, tone of voice emphatic, manner serious, and Rain nods in assent. “That’s right, and as things change racially it brings out things. I add to the show.” The daughter might get crazier as the world does.”
Kevin Le Gendre