The night Richard Pryor announced his return to stand-up, interviewed by Steve Martin on The Tonight Show (1978)

You know, kids, there was a time not so long ago when comedians weren’t always talking to each other on microphones and sharing everything about their lives with you via podcasts.

Try to remember way back when, to 2008. You got that? OK. Good. Now go back another 30 years to 1978.

Imagine Steve Martin at the height of his white-hot, white-suit stand-up days, about to sell a million copies of his Grammy-winning “A Wild And Crazy Guy” album, and on June 19, 1978, filling in for Johnny Carson as guest host of The Tonight Show.┬áMartin’s guest is stand-up legend Richard Pryor, who on this night hadn’t performed stand-up publicly in two years. But he’d announce his return here, to Martin, saying he’d “just started Tuesday, last Tuesday” at The Comedy Store in West Hollywood. Just a few months later, Pryor would be on tour, recording what would become his 1978 double-album, “Wanted: Live In Concert.”

So here they are, having an honest, sincere and sincerely funny chat about comedy, venues, where they’d seen each other perform, when they met (at the original Improvisation in New York City; backstage at The Tonight Show), and more. Also featuring cameos from Glen Campbell and Ed McMahon’s laugh.

Pryor on returning to stand-up after a two-year break:

“I’m scared. I just started back and it’s very hard. I haven’t worked in a couple of years. Getting your legs back is very hard, as they say.”

Martin’s response to that? “I feel like, if I’m off for two days, I’m a little scared.”

Pryor: “You should be.”

Comedy legends. They’re just like us. Their conversation is an official part of NBC’s The Tonight Show Experience Timeline.

Among the interesting tidbits: Pryor talks about workshopping his act “unannounced” at The Comedy Store, while Martin said “I don’t rehearse” and that his shows that summer would include a 9-10-night stint at the Universal Amphitheatre (then 5,200 seats outdoors, later 6,200 indoors, before closing this September) in Los Angeles, during which he’d shoot a network special of “A Wild and Crazy Guy” for NBC.

Roll the clip!

#tbt via Sandpaper Suit

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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