Richard Pryor

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Richard Pryor
Richard Pryor (1986) (cropped).jpg
Pryor in February 1986
Birth nameRichard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor
Born(1940-12-01)December 1, 1940
Peoria, Illinois, U.S.
DiedDecember 10, 2005(2005-12-10) (aged 65)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
MediumStand-up, film, television
Years active1963–2005
Genres Political satire, observational comedy, black comedy, improvisational comedy, character comedy, insult comedy
Subject(s)
Spouse
    Patricia Price
    (m. 1960;div. 1961)
      Shelley R. Bonus
      (m. 1967;div. 1969)
        (m. 1977;div. 1978)
          Jennifer Lee
          (m. 1981;div. 1982)
            Flynn Belaine
            (m. 1986;div. 1987)
            (m. 1990;div. 1991)
              Jennifer Lee
              (m. 2001)
Children7, including Rain
Website RichardPryor.com

Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor (December 1, 1940 – December 10, 2005) was an American stand-up comedian, actor, and writer. He reached a broad audience with his trenchant observations and storytelling style, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time.

Contents

Pryor's body of work includes the concert movies and recordings: Richard Pryor: Live & Smokin' (1971), That Nigger's Crazy (1974), ...Is It Something I Said? (1975), Bicentennial Nigger (1976), Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979), Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), and Richard Pryor: Here and Now (1983). As an actor, he starred mainly in comedies such as Silver Streak (1976), but occasionally in dramas, including Paul Schrader's Blue Collar (1978), or action films, like Superman III (1983). He collaborated on many projects with actor Gene Wilder. Another frequent collaborator was actor/comedian/writer Paul Mooney.

Pryor won an Emmy Award (1973) and five Grammy Awards (1974, 1975, 1976, 1981, and 1982). [1] In 1974, he also won two American Academy of Humor awards and the Writers Guild of America Award. The first Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was presented to him in 1998. He was listed at number one on Comedy Central's list of all-time greatest stand-up comedians. [2] In 2017, Rolling Stone ranked him first on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time. [3]

Early life

Pryor was born on December 1, 1940, in Peoria, Illinois. He grew up in a brothel run by his grandmother, Marie Carter, where his alcoholic mother, Gertrude L. (née Thomas), was a prostitute. [4] His father, LeRoy "Buck Carter" Pryor (June 7, 1915 – September 27, 1968), was a former boxer and hustler. [5] After Gertrude abandoned him when he was 10, Pryor was raised primarily by Marie, [6] a tall, violent woman who would beat him for any of his eccentricities. Pryor was one of four children raised in his grandmother's brothel. He was sexually abused at age seven, [7] and expelled from school at the age of 14. [8] While in Peoria, he became a Prince Hall Freemason at a local lodge. [9]

Pryor served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960, but spent virtually the entire stint in an army prison. According to a 1999 profile about Pryor in The New Yorker , Pryor was incarcerated for an incident that occurred while he was stationed in West Germany. Angered that a white soldier was overly amused at the racially charged scenes of Douglas Sirk's film Imitation of Life , Pryor and several other black soldiers beat and stabbed him, although not fatally. [8]

Career

1960s

Publicity photo of Pryor for one of his Mister Kelly's appearances, 1968-1969 Richard Pryor 1969.JPG
Publicity photo of Pryor for one of his Mister Kelly's appearances, 1968–1969

In 1963 Pryor moved to New York City and began performing regularly in clubs alongside performers such as Bob Dylan and Woody Allen. On one of his first nights, he opened for singer and pianist Nina Simone at New York's Village Gate. Simone recalls Pryor's bout of performance anxiety:

He shook like he had malaria, he was so nervous. I couldn't bear to watch him shiver, so I put my arms around him there in the dark and rocked him like a baby until he calmed down. The next night was the same, and the next, and I rocked him each time. [10]

Inspired by Bill Cosby, Pryor began as a middlebrow comic, with material far less controversial than what was to come. Soon, he began appearing regularly on television variety shows, such as The Ed Sullivan Show , The Merv Griffin Show , and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson . His popularity led to success as a comic in Las Vegas. The first five tracks on the 2005 compilation CD Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years (1966–1974) , recorded in 1966 and 1967, capture Pryor in this period.

In September 1967 Pryor had what he described in his autobiography Pryor Convictions (1995) as an "epiphany". He walked onto the stage at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas (with Dean Martin in the audience), looked at the sold-out crowd, exclaimed over the microphone, "What the fuck am I doing here!?", and walked off the stage. Afterward, Pryor began working profanity into his act, including the word nigger . His first comedy recording, the eponymous 1968 debut release on the Dove/Reprise label, captures this particular period, tracking the evolution of Pryor's routine. Around this time, his parents died—his mother in 1967 and his father in 1968. [11]

In 1969 Pryor moved to Berkeley, California, where he immersed himself in the counterculture and rubbed elbows with the likes of Huey P. Newton and Ishmael Reed. [12]

1970s

In the 1970s Pryor wrote for such television shows as Sanford and Son , The Flip Wilson Show , and a 1973 Lily Tomlin special, for which he shared an Emmy Award. [13] During this period, Pryor tried to break into mainstream television. He also appeared in several popular films, including Lady Sings the Blues (1972), The Mack (1973), Uptown Saturday Night (1974), Silver Streak (1976), Car Wash (1976), Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976), Which Way Is Up? (1977), Greased Lightning (1977), Blue Collar (1978), and The Muppet Movie (1979).

Pryor signed with the comedy-oriented independent record label Laff Records in 1970, and in 1971 recorded his second album, Craps (After Hours). Two years later, the relatively unknown comedian appeared in the documentary Wattstax (1972), wherein he riffed on the tragic-comic absurdities of race relations in Watts and the nation. Not long afterward, Pryor sought a deal with a larger label, and he signed with Stax Records in 1973.

Pryor performing in 1974 Richard Pryor at SJSU 1974.jpg
Pryor performing in 1974

When his third, breakthrough album, That Nigger's Crazy (1974), was released, Laff, which claimed ownership of Pryor's recording rights, almost succeeded in getting an injunction to prevent the album from being sold. Negotiations led to Pryor's release from his Laff contract. In return for this concession, Laff was enabled to release previously unissued material, recorded between 1968 and 1973, at will. That Nigger's Crazy was a commercial and critical success; it was eventually certified gold by the RIAA [14] and won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album at the 1975 Grammy Awards.

During the legal battle, Stax briefly closed its doors. At this time, Pryor returned to Reprise/Warner Bros. Records, which re-released That Nigger's Crazy, immediately after ...Is It Something I Said? , his first album with his new label. Like That Nigger's Crazy, the album was a hit with both critics and fans; it was eventually certified platinum by the RIAA and won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording at the 1976 Grammy Awards.

Pryor's release Bicentennial Nigger (1976) continued his streak of success. It became his third consecutive gold album, and he collected his third consecutive Grammy for Best Comedy Recording for the album in 1977. With every successful album Pryor recorded for Warner (or later, his concert films and his 1980 freebasing accident), Laff quickly published an album of older material to capitalize on Pryor's growing fame—a practice they continued until 1983. The covers of Laff albums tied in thematically with Pryor movies, such as Are You Serious? for Silver Streak (1976), The Wizard of Comedy for his appearance in The Wiz (1978), and Insane for Stir Crazy (1980). [15]

Pryor performed in the Lily Tomlin specials. He is seen here with Tomlin and Alan Alda in Tomlin's 1973 special. Alan Alda Lily Tomlin Richard Pryor 1973.jpg
Pryor performed in the Lily Tomlin specials. He is seen here with Tomlin and Alan Alda in Tomlin's 1973 special.

Pryor co-wrote Blazing Saddles (1974), directed by Mel Brooks and starring Gene Wilder. Pryor was to play the lead role of Bart, but the film's production studio would not insure him, and Mel Brooks chose Cleavon Little, instead. Before his horribly damaging 1980 freebasing incident, Pryor was about to start filming Mel Brooks' History of the World, Part I (1981), but was replaced at the last minute by Gregory Hines.[ citation needed ] Pryor was also originally considered for the role of Billy Ray Valentine on Trading Places (1983), before Eddie Murphy won the part.[ citation needed ]

In 1975 Pryor was a guest host on the first season of Saturday Night Live and the first black person to host the show. Pryor took longtime girlfriend, actress-talk show host Kathrine McKee (sister of Lonette McKee), with him to New York, and she made a brief guest appearance with Pryor on SNL. He participated in the "word association" skit with Chevy Chase. [16] He would later do his own variety show, The Richard Pryor Show , which premiered on NBC in 1977. The show was cancelled after only four episodes probably because television audiences did not respond well to his show's controversial subject matter, and Pryor was unwilling to alter his material for network censors. During the short-lived series, he portrayed the first black President of the United States, spoofed the Star Wars Mos Eisley cantina, took on gun violence, and in another skit, used costumes and visual distortion to appear nude. [17]

In 1979 at the height of his success, Pryor visited Africa. Upon returning to the United States, Pryor swore he would never use the word "nigger" in his stand-up comedy routine again. [18] [19]

1980s

Pryor in February 1986 Richard Pryor (1986) (cropped)-2.jpg
Pryor in February 1986

While on a freebasing binge during the making of the film Stir Crazy (1980), Pryor doused himself in rum and set himself on fire. [20] Pryor incorporated a description of the incident into his comedy show Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982). He joked that the event was caused by dunking a cookie into a glass of low-fat and pasteurized milk, causing an explosion. At the end of the bit, he poked fun at people who told jokes about it by waving a lit match and saying, "What's that? Richard Pryor running down the street."

After his "final performance", Pryor did not stay away from stand-up comedy long. Within a year, he filmed and released a new concert film and accompanying album, Richard Pryor: Here and Now (1983), which he directed himself. He also wrote and directed a fictionalized account of his life, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling , which revolved around the 1980 freebasing incident.

In 1983 Pryor signed a five-year contract with Columbia Pictures for $40 million and he started his own production company, Indigo Productions. [21] [22] Softer, more formulaic films followed, including Superman III (1983), which earned Pryor $4 million; Brewster's Millions (1985), Moving (1988), and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989). The only film project from this period that recalled his rough roots was Pryor's semiautobiographic debut as a writer-director, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, which was not a major success.

Despite his reputation for constantly using profanity on and off camera, Pryor briefly hosted a children's show on CBS called Pryor's Place (1984). Like Sesame Street , Pryor's Place featured a cast of puppets (animated by Sid and Marty Krofft), hanging out and having fun in a friendly inner-city environment along with several children and characters portrayed by Pryor himself. Its theme song was performed by Ray Parker, Jr. [ citation needed ] However, Pryor's Place frequently dealt with more sobering issues than Sesame Street. It was cancelled shortly after its debut.[ citation needed ]

Pryor co-hosted the Academy Awards twice and was nominated for an Emmy for a guest role on the television series Chicago Hope . Network censors had warned Pryor about his profanity for the Academy Awards, and after a slip early in the program, a five-second delay was instituted when returning from a commercial break. Pryor is also one of only three Saturday Night Live hosts to be subjected to a rare five-second delay for his 1975 appearance (along with Sam Kinison in 1986 and Andrew Dice Clay in 1990).[ citation needed ]

Pryor developed a reputation for being demanding and disrespectful on film sets, and for making selfish and difficult requests. In his autobiography Kiss Me Like a Stranger, co-star Gene Wilder says that Pryor was frequently late to the set during filming of Stir Crazy, and that he demanded, among other things, a helicopter to fly him to and from set because he was the star. Pryor was also accused of using allegations of on-set racism to force the hand of film producers into giving him more money:

One day during our lunch hour in the last week of filming, the craft service man handed out slices of watermelon to each of us. Richard, the whole camera crew, and I sat together in a big sound studio eating a number of watermelon slices, talking and joking. As a gag, some members of the crew used a piece of watermelon as a Frisbee, and tossed it back and forth to each other. One piece of watermelon landed at Richard's feet. He got up and went home. Filming stopped. The next day, Richard announced that he knew very well what the significance of watermelon was. He said that he was quitting show business and would not return to this film. The day after that, Richard walked in, all smiles. I wasn't privy to all the negotiations that went on between Columbia and Richard's lawyers, but the camera operator who had thrown that errant piece of watermelon had been fired that day. I assume now that Richard was using drugs during Stir Crazy. [23]

Pryor appeared in Harlem Nights (1989), a comedy-drama crime film starring three generations of black comedians (Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Redd Foxx).

1990s and 2000s

In his later years starting in the early to mid-1990s, Pryor used a power-operated mobility scooter due to multiple sclerosis (MS). [24] To him, MS stood for "More Shit". [25] He appears on the scooter in his last film appearance, a small role in David Lynch's Lost Highway (1997) playing an auto-repair garage manager named Arnie.[ citation needed ]

Rhino Records remastered all of Pryor's Reprise and WB albums for inclusion in the box set ...And It's Deep Too! The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (2000).

In late December 1999 Pryor appeared in the cold open of The Norm Show in the episode entitled "Norm vs. The Boxer". He played Mr. Johnson, an elderly man in a wheelchair who has lost the rights to in-home nursing when he kept attacking the nurses before attacking Norm himself. This was his last television appearance. [26]

In 2002 Pryor and Jennifer Lee Pryor, his wife and manager, won legal rights to all the Laff material, which amounted to almost 40 hours of reel-to-reel analog tape. After going through the tapes and getting Richard's blessing, Jennifer Lee Pryor gave Rhino Records access to the tapes in 2004. These tapes, including the entire Craps album, form the basis of the February 1, 2005, double-CD release Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years (1966–1974) . [27]

Legacy

Richard Pryor's star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, covered with items left by fans Richard Pryor Hollywood star 2.jpg
Richard Pryor's star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, covered with items left by fans

Jerry Seinfeld called Pryor "the Picasso of our profession" [28] and Bob Newhart heralded Pryor as "the seminal comedian of the last 50 years." [29] Dave Chappelle said of Pryor, "You know those, like, evolution charts of man? He was the dude walking upright. Richard was the highest evolution of comedy." [30] This legacy can be attributed, in part, to the unusual degree of intimacy Pryor brought to bear on his comedy. As Bill Cosby reportedly once said, "Richard Pryor drew the line between comedy and tragedy as thin as one could possibly paint it." [31]

Awards and honors

In 1998 Pryor won the first Mark Twain Prize for American Humor from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. According to former Kennedy Center President Lawrence J. Wilker, Pryor was selected as the first recipient of the Prize because:

as a stand-up comic, writer, and actor, he struck a chord, and a nerve, with America, forcing it to look at large social questions of race and the more tragicomic aspects of the human condition. Though uncompromising in his wit, Pryor, like Twain, projects a generosity of spirit that unites us. They were both trenchant social critics who spoke the truth, however outrageous.[ citation needed ]

In 2004 Pryor was voted number one on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time. [2] In a 2005 British poll to find "The Comedian's Comedian," Pryor was voted the 10th-greatest comedy act ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

Pryor was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. [32]

The animal rights organization PETA gives out an award in Pryor's name to people who have done outstanding work to alleviate animal suffering. Pryor was active in animal rights and was deeply concerned about the plight of elephants in circuses and zoos.[ citation needed ] In 1999, he was awarded a Humanitarian Award by the group, [33] and worked with them on campaigns against the treatment of birds by KFC. [34]

Artist Preston Jackson created a life-sized bronze statue in dedication to the beloved comedian and named it Richard Pryor: More than Just a Comedian. It was placed at the corner of State and Washington Streets in downtown Peoria, on May 1, 2015, close to the neighborhood in which he grew up with his mother. The unveiling was held Sunday, May 3, 2015. [35]

Retrospectives

In 2002 a television documentary entitled The Funny Life of Richard Pryor depicted Pryor's life and career. [36] Broadcast in the UK as part of the Channel 4 series Kings of Black Comedy, [37] [38] it was produced, directed and narrated by David Upshal [36] and featured rare clips from Pryor's 1960s stand-up appearances and movies such as Silver Streak (1976), Blue Collar (1978), Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1978), and Stir Crazy (1980). Contributors included George Carlin, Dave Chappelle, Whoopi Goldberg, Ice-T, Paul Mooney, Joan Rivers, and Lily Tomlin. The show tracked down the two cops who had rescued Pryor from his "freebasing incident", former managers, and even school friends from Pryor's home town of Peoria, Illinois. In the US, the show went out as part of the Heroes of Black Comedy [39] [40] series on Comedy Central, narrated by Don Cheadle. [41] [42]

A television documentary, Richard Pryor: I Ain't Dead Yet, #*%$#@!! (2003) consisted of archival footage of Pryor's performances and testimonials from fellow comedians, including Dave Chappelle, Denis Leary, Chris Rock, and Wanda Sykes, on Pryor's influence on comedy.

On December 19, 2005, BET aired a Pryor special, titled The Funniest Man Dead or Alive . It included commentary from fellow comedians, and insight into his upbringing. [43]

A retrospective of Pryor's film work, concentrating on the 1970s, titled A Pryor Engagement, opened at Brooklyn Academy of Music Cinemas for a two-week run in February 2013. [44] Several prolific comedians who have claimed Pryor as an influence include George Carlin, Dave Attell, Martin Lawrence, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Colin Quinn, Patrice O'Neal, Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison, Bill Burr, Louis C.K., Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Griffin, and Eddie Izzard.[ citation needed ]

On May 31, 2013, Showtime debuted the documentary Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marina Zenovich. The executive producers are Pryor's widow Jennifer Lee Pryor and Roy Ackerman. Interviewees include Dave Chappelle, Whoopi Goldberg, Jesse Jackson, Quincy Jones, George Lopez, Bob Newhart, Richard Pryor, Jr., Lily Tomlin, and Robin Williams. [45] [46]

From June 7 to 9, 2013, SiriusXM hosted "Richard Pryor Radio", a three-day tribute which featured his stand-up comedy and full live concerts. "Richard Pryor Radio" replaced The Foxxhole for the duration of the event.[ citation needed ]

On March 12, 2019, Paramount Network debuted the documentary I Am Richard Pryor, directed by Jesse James Miller. The film included appearances by Sandra Bernhard, Lily Tomlin, Mike Epps, Howie Mandel, and Pryor's ex-wife, Jennifer Lee Pryor, among others. Jennifer Lee also served as an executive producer on the film. [47]

Portrayals

In the episode "Taxes and Death or Get Him to the Sunset Strip" [48] (2012), the voice of Richard Pryor is played by Eddie Griffin in the satirical TV show Black Dynamite .

A planned biopic, entitled Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?, was being produced by Chris Rock and Adam Sandler. [49] The film would have starred Marlon Wayans as the young Pryor. [50] Other actors previously attached include Mike Epps and Eddie Murphy. The film would have been directed by Bill Condon and was still in development with no release date, as of February 2013. [51]

The biopic remained in limbo, and went through several producers until it was announced in January 2014 that it was being backed by The Weinstein Company with Lee Daniels as director. [52] It was further announced, in August 2014, that the biopic will have Oprah Winfrey as producer and will star Mike Epps as Pryor. [53]

He is portrayed by Brandon Ford Green in Season 1 Episode 4 "Sugar and Spice" of Showtime's I'm Dying Up Here.

In the Epic Rap Battles of History episode George Carlin vs. Richard Pryor, Pryor was portrayed by American rapper ZEALE. [54]

Personal life

Pryor met actress Pam Grier through comedian Freddie Prinze. They began dating when they were both cast in Greased Lightning (1977). [55] Grier helped Pryor learn to read and tried to help him with his drug addiction. [56] Pryor married another woman while dating Grier. [20]

Pryor dated actress Margot Kidder during the filming of Some Kind of Hero (1982). Kidder stated that she "fell in love with Pryor in two seconds flat" after they first met. [57]

Marriages

Pryor was married seven times to five women: [7] [8] [11]

  1. Patricia Price, to whom he was married 1960–1961. [58]
  2. Shelley Bonus, to whom he was married 1967–1969. [58]
  3. Deborah McGuire, an aspiring model and actress whom he married on September 22, 1977. They dated on and off for four years prior to their marriage. [59] They separated in January 1978, and their divorce was finalized in August 1978. [60] [61]
  4. Jennifer Lee, an actress and interior designer whom Pryor had hired to decorate his home. [62] [63] They married in August 1981, and divorced in October 1982 due to his drug addiction. They remarried on June 29, 2001 and remained married until Pryor's death. [20]
  5. Flynn Belaine, an aspiring actress whom he married in October 1986. They met when Pryor was performing in Washington D.C. in 1984. [64] Two months after they married, Pryor filed for divorce, but withdrew the petition the same day. A week later he filed for divorce again. [65] Their divorce was finalized in July 1987. They remarried on April 1, 1990, but divorced again in July 1991.

Children

Pryor had seven children with six different women:

  1. Renee Pryor, born February 13, 1957, the child of Pryor and girlfriend Susan, when Pryor was 16. [8] [66] [67]
  2. Richard Pryor Jr., born July 31, 1962, the child of Pryor and his first wife, Patricia Price.
  3. Elizabeth Ann, born April 28, 1967, the child of Pryor and girlfriend Maxine Anderson.
  4. Rain Pryor, born July 16, 1969, the child of Pryor and his second wife, Shelley Bonus.
  5. Steven, born August 1, 1984, the child of Pryor and Flynn Belaine, who later became his fifth wife.
  6. Franklin, born April 11, 1987, the child of Pryor and actress/model Geraldine Mason.
  7. Kelsey, born October 25, 1987, the child of Pryor and his fifth wife, Flynn Belaine.

Sexuality

Nine years after Pryor's death, in 2014 the biographical book Becoming Richard Pryor by Scott Saul stated that Pryor "acknowledged his bisexuality" [68] and in 2018, Quincy Jones and Pryor's widow Jennifer Lee claimed that Pryor had had a sexual relationship with Marlon Brando, and that Pryor was open about his bisexuality with his friends. [69] [70] Pryor's daughter Rain later disputed the claim, [71] to which Lee stated that Rain was in denial about her father's bisexuality. [72] Lee later told TMZ, in explanation, that "it was the 70s! Drugs were still good... If you did enough cocaine, you’d fuck a radiator and send it flowers in the morning". [73] [74] In his autobiography Pryor Convictions , Pryor admitted to having a two-week sexual relationship with a transvestite, which he called "two weeks of being gay." [75]

Substance abuse

In 1978, Pryor was arrested for drunk driving, for which he was sentenced to 5 months in jail.

Late in the evening of June 9, 1980, Pryor poured 151-proof rum all over himself and lit himself on fire. [76] [20] The Los Angeles police reported he was burned by an explosion while freebasing cocaine. Pryor claimed his injuries were caused by burning rum. [77] While ablaze, he ran down Parthenia Street from his Los Angeles home, until being subdued by police. He was taken to a hospital, where he was treated for second- and third-degree burns covering more than half of his body. Pryor spent six weeks in recovery at the Grossman Burn Center at Sherman Oaks Hospital. His daughter Rain stated that the incident happened as a result of a bout of drug-induced psychosis. [78]

Pryor's widow Jennifer Lee recalled when he began freebasing cocaine: "After two weeks of watching him getting addicted to this stuff I moved out. It was clear the drug had moved in and it had become his lover and everything. I did not exist." [20]

Health problems

In November 1977, after many years of heavy smoking and drinking, Pryor suffered a mild heart attack at age 37. [77] He recovered and resumed performing in January the following year. In 1986, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. [79] In 1990, Pryor suffered a second heart attack while in Australia. [64] [80] He underwent triple heart bypass surgery in 1991. [81]

In late 2004 his sister said he had lost his voice as a result of his multiple sclerosis. However, on January 9, 2005, Pryor's wife, Jennifer Lee, rebutted this statement in a post on Pryor's official website, citing Richard as saying: "I'm sick of hearing this shit about me not talking ... not true ... I have good days, bad days ... but I still am a talkin' motherfucker!" [82]

Death

On December 10, 2005, nine days after his 65th birthday, Pryor suffered a third heart attack in Los Angeles. He was taken to a local hospital after his wife's attempts to resuscitate him failed. He was pronounced dead at 7:58 a.m. PST. His widow Jennifer was quoted as saying, "At the end, there was a smile on his face." [22] He was cremated, and his ashes were given to his family. [83] [84] His ashes were later spread in 2019 by his widow, Jennifer, in Hana, Hawaii.[ citation needed ] Forensic pathologist Michael Hunter believes Pryor's fatal heart attack was caused by coronary artery disease that was at least partially brought about by years of tobacco smoking. [85]

Discography

Albums

YearTitleLabelNotes
1968 Richard Pryor Dove/Reprise Records
1971 Craps (After Hours) Laff Records Reissued 1993 by Loose Cannon/Island
1974 That Nigger's Crazy Partee/Stax Reissued 1975 by Reprise Records
1975 ...Is It Something I Said? Reprise Records Reissued 1991 on CD by Warner Bros. Records
1976Are You Serious ??? Laff Records
1976Rev. Du Rite Laff Records
1976Holy Smoke! Laff Records
1976 Bicentennial Nigger Warner Bros. Records Reissued 1989 on CD by Warner Bros. Records
1976Insane Laff Records
1976 L.A. Jail Tiger Lily Records
1977Who Me? I'm Not Him Laff Records
1977Richard Pryor LiveWorld Sound Records
1978The Wizard of Comedy Laff Records
1978Black Ben The Blacksmith Laff Records
1978 Wanted: Live in Concert Warner Bros. Records Double-LP set
1979Outrageous Laff Records
1982 Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip Warner Bros. Records
1982Supernigger Laff Records
1983 Richard Pryor: Here and Now Warner Bros. Records
1983Richard Pryor Live! Phoenix/Audiofidelity Picture disc
1983Blackjack Laff Records

Compilations

Filmography

YearTitleRoleNotes
1967 The Busy Body Lt. WhitakerFilm debut
1968 Wild in the Streets Stanley X
1969 Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales UnknownAlso producer and writer; uncompleted/unreleased
1970 Carter's Army Pvt. Jonathan Crunk
1970 The Phynx Richard Pryor (cameo)
1971 You've Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You'll Lose That Beat Wino
1971 Live & Smokin' Richard PryorStand-up film; also writer
1971 Dynamite Chicken Richard Pryor
1972 Lady Sings the Blues Piano Man
1973 The Mack Slim
1973 Some Call It Loving Jeff
1973 Hit! Mike Willmer
1973 Wattstax Richard Pryor / Host
1974 Uptown Saturday Night Sharp Eye Washington
1976 Adiós Amigo Sam Spade
1976 The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings Charlie Snow, All-Star (RF)
1976 Car Wash Daddy Rich
1976 Silver Streak Grover T. Muldoon
1977 Greased Lightning Wendell Scott
1977 Which Way Is Up? Leroy Jones / Rufus Jones / Reverend Lenox Thomas
1978 Blue Collar Zeke Brown
1978 The Wiz Herman Smith (The Wiz)
1978 California Suite Dr. Chauncey Gump
1979 Richard Pryor: Live in Concert Richard PryorStand-up film; also writer
1979 The Muppet Movie Balloon Vendor (cameo)
1980 Wholly Moses! Pharaoh
1980 In God We Tru$t G.O.D.
1980 Stir Crazy Harold "Harry" Monroe
1981 Bustin' Loose Joe BraxtonAlso producer and writer (story)
1982 Some Kind of Hero Eddie Keller
1982 Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip Richard PryorStand-up film; also producer and writer
1982 The Toy Jack Brown
1983 Superman III August "Gus" Gorman
1983 Richard Pryor: Here and Now Richard PryorStand-up film; also director and writer
1985 Brewster's Millions Montgomery Brewster
1986 Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling Jo Jo DancerAlso director, producer and writer
1987 Critical Condition Kevin Lenahan / Dr. Eddie Slattery
1988 Moving Arlo Pear
1989 See No Evil, Hear No Evil Wallace "Wally" Karue
1989 Harlem Nights Sugar Ray
1991 Another You Eddie Dash
1991 The Three Muscatels Narrator / Wino / Bartender
1996 Mad Dog Time Jimmy the Grave Digger
1997 Lost Highway ArnieFinal film role

Books

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Edward Regan Murphy is an American actor, comedian, writer, and singer. He rose to fame on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, for which he was a regular cast member from 1980 to 1984. Murphy has also worked as a stand-up comedian and was ranked No. 10 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.

Redd Foxx American comedian and actor

John Elroy Sanford, better known by his stage name Redd Foxx, was an American stand-up comedian and actor. Foxx gained success with his raunchy nightclub acts during the 1950s and 1960s. Known as the "King of the Party Records", he performed on more than 50 records in his lifetime. He portrayed Fred G. Sanford on the television show Sanford and Son and starred in The Redd Foxx Show and The Royal Family. His film projects included All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960), Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970), Norman... Is That You? (1976) and Harlem Nights (1989).

Dave Chappelle American comedian

David Khari Webber Chappelle is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer and producer. With his incisive observations, he has been described as "poetically unfiltered and sociopolitically introspective, with an ability to illuminate and interrogate agonizing and poignant topics." Chappelle is the recipient of numerous accolades, including four Emmy Awards and three Grammy Awards as well as the Mark Twain Prize. He is known for his satirical comedy sketch series Chappelle's Show (2003–2006). The series, co-written with Neal Brennan, ran until Chappelle quit the show in the middle of production of the third season. After leaving the show, Chappelle returned to performing stand-up comedy across the U.S. By 2006, Chappelle was called the "comic genius of America" by Esquire and, in 2013, "the best" by a Billboard writer. In 2017, Rolling Stone ranked him No. 9 in their "50 Best Stand Up Comics of All Time."

Chappelle's Show is an American sketch comedy television series created by comedians Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan, with Chappelle hosting the show and starring in the majority of its sketches. Chappelle, Brennan, and Michele Armour were the show's executive producers. The series premiered on January 22, 2003, on the American cable television network Comedy Central. The show ran for two complete seasons. An abbreviated third season of three episodes aired in 2006, compiled of previously unreleased sketches.

Paul Mooney (comedian) American comedian, writer, social critic, television and film actor

Paul Gladney, better known by the stage name Paul Mooney, is an American comedian, writer, social critic, and television and film actor. He is best known as a writer for comedian Richard Pryor; playing singer Sam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story (1978) and Junebug in Bamboozled (2000); and his appearances on Chappelle's Show.

Laff Records

Laff Records was a small American independent record label specializing in comedy and party records originating on the West Coast of the United States during the 1970s. Amongst their artists were Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, LaWanda Page, George Carlin, black ventriloquist duo Richard And Willie, Kip Addotta, Belle Barth, Rex Benson, and Skillet & Leroy.

<i>Evolution/Revolution</i> 2005 live album by Richard Pryor

Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years (1966–1974) is a two-CD compilation of live stand-up comedy recordings by comedian and actor Richard Pryor, that predate his 1974 mainstream breakthrough album That Nigger's Crazy.

<i>The Anthology (1968–1992)</i> 2002 compilation album by Richard Pryor

The Anthology (1968–1992) is a two-CD compilation distilling the best tracks from American comedian Richard Pryor's seven albums he recorded and/or released on Warner Bros. Records or its subsidiary Reprise, and is essentially the digest version of his 2000 nine-CD box set ...And It's Deep Too! The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968–1992). Pryor and his wife/manager Jennifer Lee Pryor assisted in and authorized the compilation, which was produced by the same team responsible for the ...And It's Deep Too box set, Reggie Collins and Steve Pokorny.

Franklyn Ajaye American stand-up comedian and actor

Franklyn Ajaye is an American stand-up comedian, actor, and writer. His nickname is "The Jazz Comedian" for his distinctive jazz-inflected style of delivery, timing, and astute use of silence. He released a series of comedy albums starting in 1973 and has acted in film and television shows from the 1970s through the present, including as a primary character in the 1976 ensemble comedy Car Wash and a supporting role in the Sam Peckinpah-directed Convoy (1978).

<i>...And Its Deep Too!</i> 2000 box set by Richard Pryor

...And It's Deep, Too! The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968–1992) is a compilation of all of Richard Pryor's recordings with Warner Bros. Records. It contains material recorded between 1968 and 1992 and was released in 2000 through Rhino Entertainment. The collection won an award in the Grammy Awards of 2001 for Walter Mosley's liner notes.

<i>That Niggers Crazy</i> 1974 live album by Richard Pryor

That Nigger's Crazy is the third album by American comedian Richard Pryor. It was recorded live at Don Cornelius' Soul Train nightclub in early 1974. This album won the Grammy for Best Comedy Album for 1974. The album's title was derived from a remark made by Pryor himself in Wattstax.

<i>Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling</i>

Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling is a 1986 American biographical comedy-drama film directed, produced by and starring Richard Pryor, who also wrote the screenplay with Paul Mooney and Rocco Urbisci. This was the first and only feature film Pryor directed.

<i>L.A. Jail</i> 1976 live album by Richard Pryor

L.A. Jail is the seventh album by American comedian Richard Pryor, allegedly recorded live at P.J.'s in West Hollywood, California.

<i>Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip</i> 1982 live album by Richard Pryor

Live on the Sunset Strip is the seventeenth album by American comedian Richard Pryor. Produced by Pryor and Biff Dawes, the album was released alongside the comedian's film of the same name in 1982. The material includes Pryor's frank discussion of his drug addiction and of the night that he caught on fire while freebasing cocaine in 1980.

<i>Bicentennial Nigger</i> 1976 live album by Richard Pryor

Bicentennial Nigger is the sixth album by the American comedian Richard Pryor. David Banks produced the album, while Warner Bros. Records released the album in September 1976. It is often considered one of his most influential recordings. The CD version of the album was released on 20 June 1989. It won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album.

<i>Roll with the New</i> 1997 live album by Chris Rock

Roll with the New is the second comedy album by Chris Rock. It is a combination of live material and comedy sketches. The album won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Comedy Album.

Chris Rock: Bring the Pain is a television special that premiered on HBO on June 1, 1996, starring comedian Chris Rock. This was Rock's second special for the network, following 1994's Big Ass Jokes as part of HBO Comedy Half-Hour. Rock was already a well-known comedian, but Bring the Pain made him one of the most popular comedians in the United States. The special included subjects about then-D.C. mayor Marion Barry, the O.J. Simpson murder case, dating, marriage, and race relations in America.

<i>Craps (After Hours)</i> 1971 studio album by Richard Pryor

Craps is the second album by American comedian Richard Pryor, released in 1971 on the Laff Records label. It was released during the comedian's transitional period from a middlebrow "Cosbyized" comic into a more improvisational, socially conscious, controversial brand of raw humor that Pryor would help to pioneer during the 1970s. Several monologues from the album were repeated for Pryor's debut concert film, Live & Smokin', although that film would be held from release until 1985 as a VHS videotape. Recorded at Redd Foxx's club in Hollywood, Pryor is introduced by the emcee as "the crown prince of comedy".

<i>Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip</i> (film)

Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip is a 1982 American stand-up comedy film directed by Joe Layton, starring and produced by Richard Pryor who wrote it with Paul Mooney. The film is released alongside Pryor's album of the same name in 1982, and was the most financially lucrative of the comedian's concert films. The material includes Pryor's frank discussion of his drug addiction and of the night that he caught on fire while freebasing cocaine in 1980.

Greer Barnes is an American stand-up comedian and actor. He is known for clever wordplay, observational humor, sketch comedy, mimicry, and energetic physical comedy. He has performed in comedy festivals, in commercials, on television and in films. He regularly appears at The Comedy Cellar in New York City’s West Village.

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Further reading