RIP: Richard Pryor

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Dec 10, 2005, 5:56:33 PM12/10/05
I wasn't terribly fond of his comedy, but I'm still
sorry to hear of his death. I did think that "The Toy"
was quite funny.

12/10/2005 17:03:30 EST
/AP Photo
Pathbreaking Comedian Richard Pryor Dies
Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES - Richard Pryor, the caustic yet perceptive actor-comedian
who lived dangerously close to the edge both on stage and off, died
Saturday. He was 65.

Pryor died shortly before 8 a.m. of a heart attack after being taken to
a hospital from his home in the San Fernando Valley, said his business
manager, Karen Finch. He had been ill for years with multiple sclerosis,
a degenerative disease of the nervous system.

"He did not suffer, he went quickly and at the end there was a smile on
his face," his wife, Jennifer Pryor, said. "I'm honored now that I have
an opportunity to protect and continue his legacy because he's a very,
very, very amazing man and he opened doors to so many people."

Pryor's audacious style influenced an array of stand-up artists,
including Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall and Damon Wayans, as well as Robin
Williams, David Letterman and others.

He was regarded early in his career as one of the most foul-mouthed
comics in the business, but he gained a wide following for his
expletive-filled but universal and frequently personal insights into
modern life and race relations.

A series of hit comedies in the '70s and '80s, as well as filmed
versions of his concert performances, turned him into one of the highest
paid stars in Hollywood. He was also one of the first black performers
to have enough leverage to cut his own Hollywood deals. In 1983, he
signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures.

His films included "Stir Crazy," "Silver Streak," "Jo Jo Dancer, Your
Life is Calling," and "Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip."

Throughout his career, Pryor focused on racial inequality, once joking
as the host of the 1977 Academy Awards that Harry Belafonte and Sidney
Poitier were the only black members of the Academy.

Pryor once marveled "that I live in racist America and I'm uneducated,
yet a lot of people love me and like what I do, and I can make a living
from it. You can't do much better than that."

In 1980, he nearly lost his life when he suffered severe burns over 50
percent of his body while freebasing cocaine at his home. An admitted
"junkie" at the time, Pryor spent six weeks recovering from the burns
and much longer from drug and alcohol dependence.

He battled multiple sclerosis throughout the '90s.

In his last movie, the 1991 bomb "Another You," Pryor's poor health was
clearly evident. Pryor made a comeback attempt the following year,
returning to standup comedy in clubs and on television while looking
thin and frail, and with noticeable speech and movement difficulties.

In 1995, he played an embittered multiple sclerosis patient in an
episode of the television series "Chicago Hope." The role earned him an
Emmy nomination as best guest actor in a drama series.

"To be diagnosed was the hardest thing because I didn't know what they
were talking about," he said. "And the doctor said `Don't worry, in
three months you'll know.'

"So I went about my business and then, one day, it jumped me. I couldn't
get up. ... Your muscles trick you; they did me."

While Pryor's material sounds modest when compared with some of today's
raunchier comedians, it was startling material when first introduced. He
never apologized for it.

Pryor was fired by one hotel in Las Vegas for "obscenities" directed at
the audience. In 1970, tired of compromising his act, he quit in the
middle of another Vegas stage show with the words, "What the (blank) am
I doing here?" The audience was left staring at an empty stage.

He didn't tone things down after he became famous. In his 1977 NBC
television series "The Richard Pryor Show," he threatened to cancel his
contract with the network. NBC's censors objected to a skit in which
Pryor appeared naked save for a flesh-colored loincloth to suggest he
was emasculated.

In his later years, Pryor mellowed considerably, and his film roles
looked more like easy paychecks than artistic endeavors. His robust work
gave way to torpid efforts like "Harlem Nights," "Brewster's Millions"
and "Hear No Evil, See No Evil."

"I didn't think `Brewster's Millions' was good to begin with," Pryor
once said. "I'm sorry, but they offered us the money. I was a pig, I got

"I had some great things and I had some bad things. The best and the
worst," he said in 1995. "In other words, I had a life."

Recognition came in 1998 from an unlikely source: The John F. Kennedy
Center for the Performing Arts in Washington gave Pryor the first Mark
Twain Prize for humor. He said in a statement that he was proud that,
"like Mark Twain, I have been able to use humor to lessen people's hatred."

Born in 1940, to a Peoria, Ill., construction worker, Pryor grew up in a
brothel his grandmother ran. His first professional performance came at
age 7, when he played drums at a night club.

Following high school and two years of Army service, he launched his
performing career. He played bars throughout the United States, honing
his comedy skills.

By the mid-'60s, he was appearing in Las Vegas clubs and on the
television shows of Ed Sullivan, Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson.

His first film role came with a small part in 1967's "The Busy Body." He
made his starring debut as Diana Ross' piano man in 1972's "Lady Sings
the Blues."

Pryor also wrote scripts for the television series "Sanford and Son,"
"The Flip Wilson Show" and two specials for Lily Tomlin. He collaborated
with Mel Brooks on the script for the movie "Blazing Saddles."

Later in his career, Pryor used his films as therapy. "Jo Jo Dancer,
Your Life is Calling," was an autobiographical account of a popular
comedian re-examining his life while lying delirious in a hospital burn
ward. Pryor directed, co-wrote, co-produced and starred in the film.

"I'm glad I did `Jo Jo,'" Pryor once said. "It helped me get rid of a
lot of stuff."

Pryor also had legal problems over the years. In 1974, he was sentenced
to three years' probation for failing to file federal income tax
returns. In 1978, he allegedly fired shots and rammed his car into a
vehicle occupied by two of his wife's friends.

Even in poor health, his comedy was vital. At a 1992 performance, he
asked the room, "Is there a doctor in the audience?" All he got was
nervous laughter. "No, I'm serious. I want to know if there's a doctor

A hand finally went up.

"Doctor," Pryor said, "I need to know one thing. What the (blank) is MS?"

Pryor was married six times, most recently to Flynn. The two had a son,
Steven. His other children included son Richard and daughters Elizabeth,
Rain and Renee.

Daughter Rain became an actress. In an interview in 2005, she told the
Philadelphia Inquirer that her father always "put his life right out
there for you to look at. I took that approach because I saw how well
audiences respond to it. I try to make you laugh at life."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Dec 10, 2005, 9:39:03 PM12/10/05

thanks for posting this. sad that the muthafucka died.. RIP richard !
now they need to change the tagline at his website that says "i ain't
dead MF"

Ilene Bilenky

Dec 11, 2005, 4:06:16 PM12/11/05
In article <B2Jmf.2350$Jz6.1209@trnddc06>,
Kari <> wrote:

> I wasn't terribly fond of his comedy, but I'm still
> sorry to hear of his death. I did think that "The Toy"
> was quite funny.

I never saw any of his movies except "JoJo White." His concert films
were perfection.

Ilene B

Edward Jackson

May 31, 2022, 12:41:27 AMMay 31
are you serious

The Toy is a such a great movie

That scene in Critical Condition

Maybe Superman III was a disappointment

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