Richard Pryor wants you to help underprivileged kids. Donate to the Ignited Negro College Fund.
- Sardonic comment on the accident where he set himself on fire after freebasing cocaine.
Richard Pryor (December 1, 1940 — December 10, 2005) is often cited as one of the greatest Stand-Up Comedians. And just for once, they might actually be on to something there. His act influenced (and continues to influence) comedians varying from Eddie Murphy
, to Bill Hicks
to Eddie Izzard
Starting out as a fairly non-controversial figure, he was influenced more by Bill Cosby
than Lenny Bruce
, and generally peddled his safe observational material to predominantly white audiences. It wasn't until his "epiphany" during a performance in Las Vegas in 1967 - where he exclaimed, "What the fuck am I doing here?" over the microphone before walking off the stage - that he would begin to develop his own increasingly confessional, profane and raw style of comedy.
Although he took pot-shots at a variety of targets, it's arguable that his most hilarious and cutting material concerned his own life. Whether it was shooting up his own car with a magnum, his cocaine addiction, his childhood or his health problems, Pryor would bare his private life in front of his audience in a way that even his most devoted followers would never be able to. (Seriously, can you even picture Eddie Murphy trying to laugh off that whole "Good Samaritan" incident in his stand-up?)
Despite his controversial status (one that meant he was replaced by Cleavon Little Jr. for the role of Bart in Blazing Saddles
) Pryor found a degree of mainstream success, notably in his films with Gene Wilder
. He largely retired from the public eye after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1986, but made occasional posts online and even made an appearance in Lost Highway
. In 1998, he became the first recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
He died in 2005 following a heart attack. In 2008, in a poll taken from nearly 5000 of his fellow stand-up comedians, he was voted the funniest stand-up comedian of all time, narrowly beating out his long-time friend, George Carlin
, for the title..
Related Tropes:Examples in Stand Up Comedy
Examples in Movies
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Fuck censorship and his Mama."
- Creator Breakdown: Not only Pryor's excessive drug abuse, but also his freebasing accident that daughter Rain believed was really a suicide attempt.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Admits he could be this way when his drug use caused him to be paranoid.
- Domestic Abuser: All but one of his 5 ex wives accused him of abuse and he admits to throttling his wife Jennifer in his autobiography.
- Gallows Humor: Pretty much his whole act after a while.
- Man on Fire: He lit himself on fire inadvertently when he was freebasing. He was reported to run a route described as "being a long distance in a car".
"When you're on fire and running down the street, people will get out of your way. Except for one old drunk, going, (pantomiming holding a cigarette) 'Hey, buddy? Can I get a light?'"
- Never Heard That One Before: He was aware of the jokes people were making about his Man on Fire incident — even pointing one of them out the first time he talked about it.
"'Do you know what this is?' (lights a match) 'It's Richard Pryor, running down the street.'"
- N-Word Privileges: He originally used it, even releasing albums called "That Nigger's Crazy" and "Bicentennial Nigger". Averted following a visit to Africa, where he resolved to stop using the word in his routine. (His love of the word "motherfucker", however, remained undiminished.)
- Out with a Bang: Apparently the way his father died. ("He came and went at the same time!")
- Rape as Backstory: As a child by a man in his neighborhood.
- Refuge in Audacity: He took a Smith & Wesson-made Magnum handgun and shot a brand new Mercedes-Benz, destroying the engine. He discusses this in Richard Pryor Live in Concert.
- Sesame Street Cred: Doing the alphabet back in 1976 in this video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJh_EUrEAZg. And then there's Pryors Place.
- Talking Animal: Usually dogs.
- White Dude, Black Dude: The original. Accept no subsitutes.
- Wisdom from the Gutter: Subverted in the aforementioned "Wino & Junkie" bit.
"I'm gonna help you, boy. 'Cause I believe you got potential. You know what your problem is? You don't know how to deal with the white man! You got a white-man complex. I know how to deal with him. That's why I'm in the position I'm in today."
- Wrong Side of the Tracks: His mother was a prostitute, his father was her pimp, and he was raised in his grandmother's brothel. Need I say more?
- Angry Black Man: In Hear No Evil, See No Evil. Subverted in Stir Crazy.
- Longer-Than-Life Sentence: In one of his concert films Pryor riffed on a convict he met who was serving triple life.
How do you do triple life? That means if he die, and come back, he gotta go to the penitentiary! "Fuck kindergarten, kid, you comin' with us..."