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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Richard Pryor


Richard Pryor was born in Peoria, Illinois on December 1, 1940. His family ran a brothel there.

Richard’s father was a notoriously violent pimp named LeRoy Pryor. His mother was a prostitute named Gertrude.

His mother periodically dropped out of his life for long stretches, and it was Richard's grandmother Marie Carter who served as his central guardian and caretaker.


Richard Pryor began performing comedy in the early 1960s in New York City.

Pryor began as a middlebrow comic, inspired by Bill Cosby, with material far less controversial than what was to come.

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, looked at the sold-out audience (which included Dean Martin), exclaimed over the microphone "What the **** am I doing here!?", and walked off the stage. Afterward, Pryor began including profanity int his act.

He released his first comedy album, Richard Pryor, in 1968.

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

Pryor became one of the biggest comedy stars of the 1970s, releasing an album almost every year and making numerous TV appearances.

When Prior hosted the seventh of Saturday Night Live’s premiere season on December 13, 1975, it contained one of the most memorable and edgy sketches ever to appear on the show: (the NSFW) Word Association.

NBC ordered the 1975 Pryor-hosted Saturday Night Live to run on a 5-second delay due to the comic being too controversial. Engineers later said they didn't do this because nobody knew how to do it.

He began starring in films in the early '70s and made a series of successful comedies, many of them collaborations with Gene Wilder, including Stir Crazy and Silver Streak.

Pryor also appeared as an actor occasionally in dramas, such as Paul Schrader's Blue Collar (1978), or action movies, such as Superman III (1983).

In addition to nearly 20 comedy albums, Pryor released three theatrical concert films in his career: Live in Concert (1979), Live on the Sunset Strip (1982) and Here and Now (1983).

Pryor won an Emmy Award (1973) and five Grammy Awards (1974, 1975, 1976, 1981, and 1982).

Pryor in February 1986.

Prior was married more times than Henry VIII — seven times to five women
Patricia Price (1960–1961, divorced).
Shelly Bonis (1967–1969, divorced)
Deborah McGuire (September 22, 1977 – 1979, divorced)
Jennifer Lee (August 1981 – October 1982, divorced)
Flynn Belaine (October 1986 – July 1987, divorced)
Flynn Belaine (1 April 1990 – July 1991, divorced)
Jennifer Lee (June 29, 2001 – December 10, 2005, his death)

Pryor showed up at his hotel room door just a few hours after marrying Jennifer Lee in 1981, insisting that he already wanted a divorce. The comic would get divorced from Lee the next year, only to remarry her 19 years later; the two were still together when Pryor passed away four and a half years later.

All of his wives, except Belaine, said there was domestic violence. Most of these times were connected to Pryor's drug use.

He had six children: Richard Jr., Elizabeth, Rain, Steven, Franklin and Kelsey.


Pryor had a mild heart attack in November 1977. 13 years later he had a second and more severe heart attack and needed triple heart bypass surgery.

Pryor nearly died on June 9, 1980 when he set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine, as he drunk 151-proof rum. He ran down Parthenia Street from his Northridge, California, home, fully engulfed in flames, until stopped by police and was taken to the hospital. Burns covered more than half of his body and the comedian spent six weeks in recovery at the Grossman Burn Center.

In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. By the early 1990s, he needed to use a wheelchair because of his central nervous system disease.

Photo of Richard Pryor. 1986

Throughout the early 1990s Pryor would often show up at Los Angeles’s famous standup club The Comedy Store to take to the stage in his wheelchair.

Pryor was such an avid supporter of animal rights, that he actively spoke out against animal testing of any kind—even when that testing meant getting closer to a cure for his multiple sclerosis condition.


Pryor suffered a fatal heart attack and died in Encino, Los Angeles, California on December 10, 2005 at the age of 65.

Pryor is listed at Number 1 on Comedy Central's list of all-time greatest stand-up comedians.

Sources, Mental Floss

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