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Comedian Richard Pryor dies at 65

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Quigley_Sharps, Dec 11, 2005.

  1. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Richard Pryor, who helped transform comedy with biting commentary on race and often profane reflections on his own shortcomings, died on Saturday at age 65 after a long illness, his wife and associates said.

    Pryor died of heart failure on Saturday morning after efforts to resuscitate him failed and after he was taken to a hospital in the Los Angeles suburb of Encino, his wife, Jennifer Pryor, told CNN.

    Pryor had been suffering from multiple sclerosis, a degenerative nervous system disease, for almost 20 years.

    "He was my treasure," Jennifer Pryor said in a telephone interview. "His comedy is unparalleled. ...He was able to turn his pain into comedy."

    Credited for paving the way for a generation of comic performers, including the likes of Robin Williams, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock, Pryor began performing in New York in the 1960s but found his voice with an edgier kind of comedy after moving to California in about 1970.

    While he appeared in successful mainstream movies, it was Pryor's confessional style of stand-up, in which nothing was off-limits, that made him a controversial star.

    Racism was a major theme of his routine and he co-opted a racial epithet in punch lines, although he said after a 1979 trip to Africa he regretted having brought the word into the entertainment mainstream with Grammy-winning comedy albums like "That Nigger's Crazy" and 1976's "Bicentennial Nigger."

    "I decided to make it my own," Pryor wrote in his autobiography "Pryor Convictions." "Nigger. I decided to take the sting out of it. Nigger. As if saying it over and over again would numb me and everybody else to its wretchedness."

    Pryor, who battled drug and alcohol abuse for years, also famously joked about a 1980 incident in which he nearly died after dousing himself with cognac and lighting himself on fire while freebasing cocaine.

    In the incident, which Pryor later called a suicide attempt, he jumped out a window and ran down a Los Angeles street, burning. ("You know something I noticed? When you run down the street on fire people will move out of your way," he joked in 1982's "Richard Pryor Live on Sunset Strip").

    Pryor, who marked his 65th birthday on December 1, had survived two heart attacks, triple bypass surgery and several run-ins with the law, including a 1978 incident in which he shot up the car of his then-wife when she tried to leave him.

    Pryor was married seven times, including twice to Jennifer and twice to Flynn Belaine, and had seven children.


    Pryor grew up in a Peoria, Illinois, brothel run by his grandmother. After a stint in the Army, he pursued a comedy career that landed him spots on the Ed Sullivan and Merv Griffin shows in the 1960s.

    He eventually grew unhappy with the "white bread" humor those shows sought and revamped his act with inspiration from the hustlers, pimps and other characters he had encountered at his grandmother's brothel. The result was a routine he later called "profane and profound."

    "People can't always handle it, but I knew that if you tell the truth it's going to be funny," Pryor said in his memoir.

    Mitzi Shore, who runs The Comedy Store club in Los Angeles where Pryor performed through the 1980s, said in a statement that Pryor turned his brand of comedy into "a one-man art form."

    Pryor was a co-writer of the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy "Blazing Saddles," but lost out on the starring role to Cleavon Little because of controversy over his stand-up routine.

    Pryor won Grammy Awards for his comedy albums and portrayed Billie Holiday's piano player in the 1972 Oscar-nominated film "Lady Sings the Blues."

    Other film roles paired him with comic Gene Wilder in "Silver Streak" of 1976 and "Stir Crazy" four years later.

    The 1986 movie "Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling," was based loosely on Pryor's life and recalled his battle with drug addiction and his own near-death experience.

  2. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    Richard will be missed here, One of the funniest men I have ever watched, RIP Richard
  3. ghostrider

    ghostrider Resident Poltergeist Founding Member

    Yeah, some of the old Richard Pryor stories about Toodulum(sp), dracula, Ms. Rudolph and the tractor, were some of the funniest stories anybody ever wrote.
  4. CRC

    CRC Survivor of Tidal Waves | RIP 7-24-2015 Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Sail On, Richard..

    Hope he finds the peace he was looking for here..

    One of the best comics I have ever seen...

    I always remembered "Live on Sunset Strip" when he talked about going to Africa? And there were no Pryor's in any of the phone books...and how it dawned on him , while sitting in the airport , that he had not used the "N" word the whole time he was there.....and how much a part of his routine it was.....

    he said "No one does it to us....WE perpetuate our own wretchedness"....That phrase has always stuck with me....Because we can all be guilty of rolling around in our misery and sitting on that pity pot..playing the blame game...

    It is how we act, not react, when the chips are down that we find out what we are made of...and Thank you, Richard, for showing me that, many years ago....

    and his characters? Remember Hambone??

    What a comic genuis.....Wonder what he would have been like had the drugs not gotten him?

    He had a smile that could light up a room when he used it....I watched many interviews with him.......


    Sail On.....
  5. E.L.

    E.L. Moderator of Lead Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I loved it when he told Eddie Murphy "tell Bill (Cosby) to have a Coke and a smile and shutup!"
  6. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Best line -- "DEAD honky."
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