Have you ever played Denver before?
I once did a show for a medical association, which included some singing and stand-up. It was very strange and very staunch, but I think this (Feb. 28) event will be looser.
No doubt, since this is an ostensibly “4/20-friendly” show. However, for all your work on and off stage over the years you’re not really known as a pot activist.
I’m not. But I’m not against marijuana smoking because I’ve seen lots of other things. I was also a drug counselor for six years. I think the name Pryor just triggers that in people: “Hey, she might tell some jokes. We should have her do our big pot event!”
And you’re OK with that, obviously. I’m guessing you also don’t mind an audience of stoned people?
Oh, of course not. (Stoned crowds) are fine. Who wants to eat potato chips for an hour? Will fights break out? Everyone’s too stoned to argue, and everyone will be laughing.
What do you think your dad would say about legal weed in Colorado?
I think he’d be fine with it. That’s the truth. He would be fine with it, and if he wasn’t I wouldn’t be doing an event like this. I’m all for the use of marijuana, especially medicinal. I’ve seen it work for people. Being a drug counselor, I also know the effects of heroin and cocaine and methamphetamines. I’ve seen less psychotic outbursts from marijuana smoking than I have from any of the other drugs, including alcohol. So I’m for it, and I was for the legalization of it. It’s up to each individual to monitor. I have yet to hear of someone killing someone from pot-driving, but you hear about drunk driving all the time. And if it’s helping people, that’s great. I haven’t heard of alcohol helping people except in the 17th and 18th centuries when they had to cut off limbs.
It’s strange because it’s common here in Colorado to talk about these things, but in most other places you can still get arrested for cannabis possession.
We’re in a whole new era and there’s a lot to grasp onto. And this show’s about having a fun night with a crazy crowd. I wouldn’t do it if it was something that went against my moral compass. I don’t walk into things like that just for a paycheck.
Do the racial and social-justice aspects that a lot of pot activists cite play into it for you?
Of course it makes a difference. Half of the people I remember in counseling, the population that I dealt with, had a high percentage of having been in prison. This was in L.A. a few years ago, where people who were being arrested for small offenses like marijuana possession would end up doing time. It’s not like they were getting caught with heroin or coke or meth. And it really was like, “Wow, you’re going to bust somebody because of this?” When you decriminalize substances you take some of the stigma away. As a counselor I saw that half of the need for some people was in the suspense of it all. When you take that away, some of the appeal is gone.
This Feb. 28 show is a variety night with stand-up, burlesque and music, which seems appropriate given your eclectic background. What can we expect from your act?
I’m excited to do what I do in my fashion, in my way, in front of a group of people as me. I’m not going as Richard Pryor. I don’t tell jokes as my dad did. I have similarities, but I’m not him and people are going to see what I bring to the table. I think the misconception is that because I’m related to Richard Pryor that I am Richard Pryor. But once you take that out the equation, you’re coming to see me do what I do.
It seems like a difficult balance because you obviously get a lot of attention for being his daughter, but you’ve also built your own career outside of that.
I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I didn’t have my dad, and he always wanted me to do stand-up because he understood me and got where my head was at. He thought I had something to say about life. I have a book that I wrote called “Jokes My Father Never Taught Me,” which isn’t your typical tell-all. It’s actually a lovely book about understanding who he was. But like I said, you’re going to get a show and you’re going to hear about me. I can share my experiences and my life and talk about how I perceive things, whether it’s sex or the fact I’m the most anti-celebrity child there is because I haven’t wound up in rehab. If I did, I’d probably be famous. So it’s those things I joke about: the ridiculousness of celebrity. Because it is ridiculous how people can become famous for screwing up.
What have you learned in the theater that you’ve applied to stand-up?
For me it’s all one in the same. I’m more of a performer than my friends who are actual stand-ups. I bring my own different element because I am a stage performer, so there are more theatrics and showmanship. For me comedy is more storytelling. I’m not a set-up/punchline comic. I’m also a producer and right now I’m producing an off-Broadway show called “Mannish Boy” with Ralph Harris, directed by Oz Scott, who actually directed my dad in “Bustin’ Loose.” So I produce, I act, I direct. But I’m normal. I’m a mom and I have dating issues. Right now I have a boyfriend and hopefully that’ll last!
Will you partake in legal weed while you’re here?
I don’t buy marijuana, but who knows? I may actually try some when I’m there so I know what the hell I’m talking about. I look at this as an adventure that I’ll add to my list. When I tell my child (5-year-old Lotus Marie Partlow) about it I’ll say, “You’ll never guess what Mommy did!” When she’s older, of course.