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Richard Pryor was a groundbreaking African-American comedian and one of the top entertainers of the 1970s and '80s.
Watch a short video about comedian Richard Pryor and his foul mouthed, no holds barred style.
Actress-Director Rain Pryor talks candidly about her father, comedian Richard Pryor, and his take on being a celebrity.
Actress-Director Rain Pryor talks about her father, comedian Richard Pryor, and how his difficult childhood influenced his comedy.
Actress-Director Rain Pryor talks about how her father Richard Pryor was a comedy pioneer with his raw stand-up performances and honest critiques of race.
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Richard Pryor was born on December 1, 1940, in Peoria, Illinois. A class clown in school and a community theater actor in his teens, Pryor became a successful stand-up comedian, television writer and movie actor, starring in films like Stir Crazy and Greased Lightning. Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986, but continued to perform for several more years. He died of a heart attack in 2005.
"When you ain't got no money, you gotta get an attitude."
"I know I can make love eight, nine times a night. Yes! I know I can ... I just need a woman!"
"You know something I noticed? When you run down the street on fire, people will move out of your way."
"Richard Pryor. There will never be another one. As long as someone is talking about human beings on this planet, Richard Pryor will be talked about."
"If you want to talk about sheer talent, and the greatest comedian that ever lived ... 'til somebody beats that guy, Richard Pryor, man, heads and shoulders, I'm sorry."
"Richard Pryor would have to be the seminal comedian ... [he] influenced more comedians than anyone else."
Born on December 1, 1940, in Peoria, Illinois. A skilled social satirist with a fondness for profanity, Richard Pryor was a groundbreaking African-American comedian who became one of the top entertainers of the 1970s and '80s. He got a rough start in life. His mother reportedly worked as a prostitute and his father was a bartender and boxer who served in the military during World War II. His parents married when he was three years old, but the union did not last.
For much of his youth, Pryor was left in his grandmother's care and lived in the brothel she ran. He also experienced sexual abuse as a child, according to his official website. To step away from the grim reality of his life, Pryor found solace in going to the movies.
At school, Pryor played the part of the class clown. He went on to discover acting in his early teens. A natural performer, Pryor was cast in a production of Rumplestiltskin by Juliette Whittaker, the director of a local community center. She believed in his talent and encouraged him throughout the years.
At the age of 14, Pryor was expelled from school and ended up working a string of jobs until he joined the military in 1958. He served in the army for only two years—he was discharged for fighting with another soldier.
Upon his return home, Pryor married Patricia Price in 1960. The couple had one child together before divorcing. After ending his marriage, Pryor pursued a career as an entertainer. He found work as a comic throughout the Midwest, playing African American clubs in such cities as East St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
In 1963, Pryor moved to New York City. The following year, he made his television debut on the variety show On Broadway Tonight. More guest appearances followed on such shows as The Merv Griffin Show and the Ed Sullivan Show. At the time, his act was modeled after two African American comedians he admired, Bill Cosby and Dick Gregory.
By the late 1960s, Pryor had landed a few small parts on the big screen, appearing in The Busy Body (1967) and Wild in the Streets (1968). He also released his first self-titled comedy album around this time. Pryor even gave marriage another try—he wed Shelly Bonus in 1967. (The couple had one child together—a daughter named Elizabeth—before divorcing in 1969.)
Pryor toured extensively, doing his stand-up act. Playing Las Vegas, he served as Bobby Darin's opening act at the Flamingo Hotel for a time. He reached an interesting career turning point while playing at the Aladdin in the late 1960s. Tired of the constraints and limitations on his material, Pryor walked off stage and took a break from stand up.
See Rain Pryor, the daughter of the comedian Richard Pryor, in her solo Off-Broadway show Fried Chicken & Latkes at the Actors Temple Theatre.
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