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Tribeca documentaries put comedians in the spotlight

Richard Pryor, Elaine Stritch and Moms Mabley are featured this year

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"Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic" premieres May 31 on Showtime.
Credit: Showtime

These new films are definitely a laughing matter.

"Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic"
Pryor was said to have broken the glass ceiling for black comedians, with that trademark tell-it-straight style that touched on the taboo and won fans of all races. Showtime traces the star's rise to success and the many hiccups that came along the way, from the early Vegas gig he blew to his penchant for freebasing cocaine, which ultimately led to a suicide attempt. With commentary from other comedians like Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, George Lopez, and Dave Chappelle, plus stories from those closest to Pryor, like his managers and ex-girlfriends, the doc provides an in-depth look at the man behind the laughs. When you hear about his decision to get away from the Hollywood scene and head to Africa, suddenly, Dave Chappelle's meltdown makes a little more sense.

“Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me”
The Broadway veteran speaks candidly from her corner suite at the Carlyle Hotel on her career in theater and on “30 Rock,” plus her battles with aging, diabetes and alcoholism. First-time documentary director Chiemi Karasawa was inspired to focus on Stritch after spotting her at the salon. The resulting piece is a mix of interviews with Stritch and her contemporaries like Nathan Lane, Tina Fey and James Gandolfini, plus a look at her day-to-day as a working octogenarian also maintaining her sobriety. Stritch was filmed for a year and a half, during which she and Karasawa would watch her old movies together and talk about everything from Broadway to her dates with John F. Kennedy (for whom she wouldn’t give up her virginity, she divulges in the film). From the sweet old lady singing show tunes in the elevator to the feisty woman telling a swerving cyclist or cabbie “Easy, you son of a bitch!” Stritch’s own character is just as intriguing as those she’s portrayed on the stage and screen.

“I Got Somethin’ to Tell You”
A Kickstarter campaign provided the necessary funding Whoopi Goldberg needed for her directorial debut, a documentary about the trailblazing comedian Moms Mabley. Moms, with her signature crackly voice, mismatched clothes and hunched-over stance, is remembered on-screen through clips, photos and interviews Whoopi conducted with other comedians, like Kathy Griffin, Bill Cosby and Arsenio Hall. She was revered for her ability to appeal to a wide variety of audiences (black, white, male, female) during a politically poignant time in our nation’s history, the Civil Rights Movement. “Without Moms, there certainly would not have been a Whoopi,” Goldberg wrote on her Kickstarter page.

 
 
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