Maya Angelou loved comedians.
Though best known for her earnest writing, she always stressed the importance of comedy, and talked with comedians like Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Richard Pryor about making people laugh. In what was likely her final television interview, she called in to “The Arsenio Hall Show” on Martin Luther King Day to recall King’s great sense of humor.
“We live in direct relation to the heroes and sheroes we have. And so we’d better laugh. Not to laugh at anyone else, but to laugh at ourselves,” she told Hall. “Have enough courage to say I am a human being. I dare to love myself. I dare to love my men and women. I dare to be an African-American who is courageous.”
One of her most courageous performances came during 1977’s “The Richard Pryor Special?” What begins as a funny sketch about Pryor’s carousing drunk, Willie, turns into a heartbreaking monologue about loss, delivered by Angelou, as his wife. The audience, which laughs at the beginning, cheers at the end.
Watch Angelou on Pryor’s special:
Watch Angelou on “Arsenio”: