About Richard Pryor
Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor (1 December 1940 – 10 December 2005) was an American stand-up comedian, actor, social critic, writer and MC. Pryor was known for uncompromising examinations of racism and topical contemporary issues, which employed colorful vulgarities, and profanity, as well as racial epithets. He reached a broad audience with his trenchant observations and storytelling style. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential stand-up comedians of his era: Jerry Seinfeld called Pryor "The Picasso of our profession"; Bob Newhart has called Pryor "the seminal comedian of the last 50 years.". 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."
His 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). He also starred in numerous films as an actor, such as Superman III (1983) but was usually in comedies such as Silver Streak (1976), and occasionally in dramatic roles, such as Paul Schrader's film Blue Collar (1978). 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). In 1974, he also won two American Academy of Humor awards and the Writers Guild of America Award. The first ever Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was presented to him in 1998. Pryor is listed at "Number 1" on Comedy Central's list of all-time greatest stand-up comedians.
Born in Peoria, Illinois, Pryor grew up in his grandmother's brothel, where his mother, Gertrude Thomas, practised prostitution. His father, LeRoy "Buck Carter" Pryor was a former bartender and boxer.
After his mother abandoned him when he was 10, he was raised primarily by his grandmother Marie Carter, a 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 molested as a child by a Catholic priest.
He was expelled from school at the age of 14. His first professional performance was playing drums at a night club. 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 stationed in Germany. Angered that a white soldier was a bit too amused at the racially charged sections of Douglas Sirk's movie Imitation of Life, Pryor and some other black soldiers beat and stabbed him, though not fatally. According to Live on the Sunset Strip, when he was 19, he worked at a Mafia-owned nightclub in Youngstown, Ohio, as the MC. On hearing that they would not pay a stripper friend of his, he attempted to hold up the owners with a cap pistol. The owners were greatly amused.
Just days after his 65th birthday, groundbreaking comedian Richard Pryor died Saturday of a heart attack, his wife told CNN.
Pryor, who had been ill with multiple sclerosis, died at Encino Hospital near Los Angeles at 7:58 a.m. PT. Jennifer Lee Pryor tried to revive him at their home before paramedics arrived and took him to the hospital, she said.
"He enjoyed life right up until the end," she said, adding that Pryor had been laughing a lot and was in good spirits in the two weeks preceding his death. "At the end, there was a smile on his face."