All-Star Panelist and Co-Writer of Bustin’ Loose, Roger Simon Reflects on Writing with Comedy Legend Richard Pryor

All-Star Panelist and Co-Writer of Bustin’ Loose, Roger Simon Reflects on Writing with Comedy Legend Richard Pryor


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed the founder of Pajamas Media and all-star panelist Roger Simon to the studio to reflect on what it was like knowing and writing with the comedian Richard Pryor and what he would think about cancel culture today.

Leahy: We are delighted to have studio, the newest all-star panelist, the youngest all-star panelist, I suppose. Young in terms of all-stars. Right? Do you like that? Do you like that phrasing?

Simon: You lie, but it’s ok. The media lies so why not?

Leahy: Roger, born and raised in New York City. You are Mr. New York City in some regards. Or were during its heyday, right?

Simon: The 1950s when I was a kid.

Leahy: You loved it.

Simon: We used to go to the Yankee games and have a great time.

Leahy: Absolutely.

Simon: Well, you know, the irony is that when I was 10 years old, my buddies and I would just jump on the subway and come back in 12 hours.

Leahy: No big deal.

Simon: No big deal. We’d go out, we sit in the bleachers for 65 cents.

Leahy: Man. That was the life.

Simon: It was fun. New York was great in those days. New York, like LA, which became my adopted home, has turned into the far side of hell. (Leahy laughs) But, you know, this election in New York is almost a farce.

Leahy: Well, Here’s the headline, New York Post yesterday by Julian Marsh. Headline. Eric Adams sued to ensure a “fair election process” after the Board of Elections botches vote count and Mayoral candidate and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former police captain NYPD, filed a preemptive lawsuit on Wednesday to ensure a fair and transparent election process after the Board of Elections botched the June 22 second primary outcome by accidentally including test results in the vote count leading to 135,000 extra ballots. Roger, I just can’t help laughing it. (Laughs)

Simon: Well, you can laugh. In a real black comic sense, it’s very funny. But, you know, what it tells us is all that stuff about the National presidential election that is being debunked all the time by The New York Times, of all places that I used to write for, by the way.

And I can have some comments about that in a minute. I’ll tell you. But it raises the issue that our elections across the country are fraudulent. If they can’t handle a mayoral election in New York where everybody is desperate to get rid of DeBlasio, there’s something wrong here, folks. It’s really wrong.

Leahy: How incompetent are you if you are the New York City Board of Elections and they’re doing this crazy ranked-choice voting, which is complicated. But basically your rank from one to five and how strongly you feel about the five candidates.

And then if one candidate doesn’t have a majority of the number one they get rid of number five and they go to the second choice.

Simon: Well, you know,  the election was really actually properly named. It really was rank.

Leahy: (Laughs) This is why we pay you the big bucks, Roger, because of your clever use of language.

Simon: I wrote comedy way back in the paleolithic age.

Leahy: You wrote comedy for who?

Simon: Well, Richard Pryor, that’s one.

Leahy: You wrote comedy for Richard Pryor?

Simon: He didn’t say it, but I wrote it.

Leahy: I didn’t know this about you. So tell me how you became friends with Richard Pryor and how you wrote comedy for him. And how often did you do this?

Simon: I wrote the movie Bustin’ Loose where he started. I never knew Prior before and the executives at Universal Studios who thought that I should write for him introduced us.

But then we did become friends. And he was a fantastic person. A little bit self-destructive, as the world knows. More than a little.

Leahy: So this is interesting. So Richard Pryor was a fantastic person.

Simon: Oh, a very nice guy to his friends.

Leahy: To his friends. And you were one of his friends?

Simon: Well, he liked what I was doing for him.

Leahy: So how would you go about writing comedy for Richard Pryor?

Simon: I went to his house, and this is the very beginning of the beginning because Richard tested people out because he was a bit paranoid about what people were thinking of him.

But I went to his house with the executives to work on a story that was then called Family Dream that Prior had a basic outline for. And then we turned it into Bustin’ Loose. Actually, the studio named it Bustin’ Loose because the studio wanted a title for Pryor movies that got him in the theater. And it did. It was one of the big hits of the year.

Leahy: And so would you sit down with them and just I don’t know how people write comedy. Do you go into the comedy writing room? How do you do it?

Simon: No-no-no. They do it in lots of ways. But this was the screenplay way. The way people write for TV is they do go into a room with a bunch of people. I couldn’t stand that. I can’t work that way. I’m too private for that.

No, what happened is I’d go and I’d sit down with him for an hour or two, and to be honest, try not to do the drugs that he was doing constantly.

Leahy: (Chuckles) That sounds like a good plan Roger.

Simon: And we agree on the basic storyline. And I went back to his office at Universal Studios and wrote it.

Leahy: And then after you write the jokes?

Simon: This was a screenplay. It had jokes in it.

Leahy: Oh it would have jokes in it. It wasn’t like writing for a comedy routine.

Simon: I did both for him later because he trusted me. He was the greatest stand-up comic of all time. Let’s be honest. I mean, no one was better. But the reason is he was so great is he never did jokes.

What I mean is I would write some jokes for him and he’d say hey that’s pretty funny.I actually went on the road with him a couple of times.

Leahy: You went on the road with Richard Pryor?

Simon: Yeah. And he never told the jokes.

Leahy: So you would write jokes.

Simon: He said they were great but he wouldn’t tell him. But it wasn’t deliberate. His style was just to stand on stage and tell the truth. And the truth is funny when told by Pryor.

Leahy: So the jokes that you wrote for him, he would say they were funny. But would they end up at some point in this comedy routine or not?

Simon: No.

Leahy: No.

Simon: They disappeared into the ether. I can’t even remember them. In fact, I remember when he asked me to do it I thought it was strange because I think he was just being nice to me because that wasn’t his style.

He was a comic genius because he could turn reality into comedy. And he was not racist at all. I mean, it was a totally different era. He would be read out right now. He would be canceled.

Leahy: What would Richard Pryor say about critical race theory?

Simon: He would roll his eyes, but he’d do it in a way that would have you on the floor laughing.

Leahy: Laughing?

Simon: The greatest act he ever did was a White guy and a Black guy walking through the woods. And this was done completely mimed. No dialogue. And he would have the audience on the floor.

Leahy: So just physical mannerisms that were different?

Simon: Yes. How a White guy and how a Black guy, both of them were chicken of course. (Leahy laughs) Just the way you reacted through a bear and all that stuff. (Leahy laughs) And it was totally without prejudice. I mean, it was just fun.

Leahy: Gee, these interesting things that you’ve done, Roger that you’re withholding from us. We have to drag them out of you, Roger.

Simon: I thought you knew that. I also wrote for Whoopi but that didn’t turn out well.

Leahy: Would you like to elaborate on that?

Simon: No. (Leahy bellows) I will say one thing about here. I was sent to Washington, DC, to write a comedy about Whoopi and the White House press room. Yuck yuck. As a reporter.

And I had a lot of amazing experiences in that time. It changed me. It started to change me from a Democrat to a Republican.

Leahy: Really?

Simon: Yeah. Because it was during the Reagan administration. And what was the name of the guy who was the Press Secretary there? Marlin Fitzwater.

Leahy: Yeah. Marlin Fitzwater.

Simon: And he was so terrific to me. I said these Republicans are great guys. He would bring me back.

Leahy: He was a nice guy.

Simon: Yeah. He would bring me back in the back room of the press office there and give me some bourbon and branch. (Leahy chuckles) And I’d say I thought Republicans were bad guys. That was a long time ago.

Leahy: So I’m reading into this. Richard Pryor was is a really great guy.

Simon: Absolutely.

Leahy: This is not something you would necessarily say about Whoopi.

Simon: With Whoopi, the relationship disappeared. She was okay. She was very bright. What she does now I think is ridiculous. It’s a parody of herself.

Leahy: Exactly.

Listen to the third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Richard Pryor” by Alan Light. CC BY 2.0.















Author of Awake, Not Woke Noelle Mering Highlights the Three Fundamental Distortions of Woke Culture

Author of Awake, Not Woke Noelle Mering Highlights the Three Fundamental Distortions of Woke Culture


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  guest host Christina Botteri welcomed co-creator of the Theology of Home and author of the book Awake, Not Woke, Noelle Mering to the newsmakers line to outline the three elements of her book that define the woke culture and its infiltration into the church.

Botteri: Right now on the newsmakers line, I am so excited to introduce our next guest, Noelle Mering is a fellow at the Ethics and Policy Center. She’s the author of the book Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology. Noel, thank you so much for joining us this morning on The Tennessee Star Report.

Mering: Nice to be here. Thank you for having me.

Botteri: Thank you. Tell us about your new book.

Mering: Yeah. So it’s published by TAN Books. It just came out a couple of weeks ago, and it’s really my research and interest in what’s happening with woke culture. And I treat it more or less like a religion.

So I go through its origins, its dogmas, and its methods of indoctrination, but then also the restoration, the way to restore the culture out of this situation. Yes, I’m really excited about it and eager to be talking more about it. It’s one of my favorite subjects. (Chuckles)

Botteri: (Laughs) Well, let’s get started. So what was the genesis of the idea to address this? Where did the idea for Awake, Not Woke come from?

Mering: I’ve always thought of been interested in the intersection of Christianity and politics and how that plays itself out. And obviously it’s a hot topic, and there are lots of differences.

The big topic I think I got really interested in the woke stuff in particular because I started writing articles about things that were happening in the culture and noticed a certain pattern that this movement that’s about social justice tends to be quite merciless and actually unjust ultimately.

But it really operates on confusion and sort of plays on a pre-Christian precept to walk alongside the marginalized and suffering, which is a true and good precept. But what I kept noticing is that it takes that and sort of manipulates that instinct and then brings something that not really just out of it.

And so that seems important and interesting to note and to try to figure out why the movement was acting this way.

Botteri: Wow. What did you find and what are the things that you discuss?

Mering: I go through the historical genealogy, which is a big topic, too, but rooted in Marxism and then neo-Freudism, and post-modernism. The central dogmas that I found to be driving this movement and uniting it are three fundamental distortions.

One places the group over the person to the point where the person is reduced for the sake of the group. And really there’s a lot of tribalism there. Secondly, it emphasizes the human will over our reason or nature.

So what we desire becomes the definition of who we are, even above and beyond what is rational or natural. Meaning, like natural law, an intelligible human nature is a bodily meaning.

We see this really acutely in the transgender movement, for example. And thirdly, it emphasizes human power over authority. It really defines any hierarchical structure to be oppressive, even the structure of a supernatural hierarchy.

And God himself ultimately finds to be the target of this movement, because there are three things that are reduced. And those three distortions are the person’s reason and authority.

And the woke which is ultimately three characters, just the logos meaning the mind, the reason of God manifests in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the author and authority of all. And I do think that he is the ultimate target of this movement.

Botteri: Something that I’ve seen over the course of several years now, but it seems to be sort of snowballing is a social justice movement in the church. And as a Methodist, I’ve had a tough time for a long time reconciling their pacifist stance – and that’s a discussion for another day.

But we see a lot of progressive tenants being expressed in the church right now, especially in Catholicism. If you follow the Pope at all, he’s basically a South American-Marxist.

Are we allowed to say that? It’s something that seems to be snowballing and gaining a lot of traction in the Protestant religion as well – the Protestant doctrines. Where is that coming from? If the goal of racism is to destroy God, why is it getting so much traction in the churches?

Mering: That’s a great question. The two primary targets of Karl Marx were the church and the family. Christianity and the family. And I think that there’s been a lot of inroads because Christians are swimming in the same waters as the regular culture.

So one of the main goals was to really break down the sexual morals of the culture. First and foremost, you’re attacking the father by making him unfaithful and by encouraging him to be licentious and follow sexual passions.

And then this turns women in, makes women distrustful because obviously family stability and cultural stability rely on the family unit. And it also makes children rebellious because a father is really kind of an icon of authority.

We see it in his deeper voice and his broader shoulders and his commanding stature. There really is an authority just imbued in men, and it sort of calls them to inspire something higher.

And if they don’t, then it really becomes abusive and just about human power when it’s not grounded in moral law. Once these things happen, social pathologies become rampant, and they’re in the church as well.

And I think we see that. Once our socials were wounded and hurt by all these social pathologies and the breakdown of the family, we become very susceptible to a replacement version of the Christian life and what virtue means.

And so all of a sudden we’ve gradually stripped at this narrative meaning of the family life, and the faith has become watered down. And then here comes the work movement, introducing this new narrative where all you have to do to become good is to agree with the ideology to fight.

There’s this boogeyman out there of oppression. They see oppression in everything. Every interaction is built on oppression and power. That’s what the ideology is saying. So if you can just fight this boogeyman.

And the boogeyman is not always the boogeyman. That’s why it’s powerful. It’s real sometimes. There’s real racism. There can be real misogyny. There are real instances of these things.

But rather than taking them to be incidences that you can point out and identify and try again, it becomes this invisible, pervasive, controlling dynamic in society. And so I think Christians have really been duped in a lot of ways into thinking that this is what the new way to become virtuous is.

It’s just to become woke. And all of the other normal traditional channels of virtue have been seen as being oppressive or judgmental or these sorts of things like old-fashioned. I think it really starts with a loss of human virtue and then becomes prey to tyrannical ideology in that way.

Botteri: Well, that’s disturbing. Os Guinness, the philosopher from Hong Kong, of the Ale Guinness family – he coined the phrase the Golden Triangle of Freedom and said that liberty is only possible without these three elements being the Golden Triangle of Freedom.

And you can read about this at the Tennessee Star with our Constitution series. And the three elements are faith, virtue, and freedom. Liberty cannot exist without those three elements there.

And so the question is, can we have liberty without faith or virtue? What do you say, Noelle?

Mering: No, it’s extraordinarily difficult. And this is one of the ways that you lose your liberty is by losing your virtue. Alexis de Tocqueville said that America is great only so long as she is good. And once we lose our moral goodness moral compass, then we can’t control ourselves from interiorly, we have to be controlled externally.

Botteri: That’s a lot to think about.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Noelle Mering” by Noelle Mering.