Correction to This Article
The Dec. 11 obituary of Richard Pryor incorrectly said that he was nominated for an Academy Award in 1972 for best supporting actor in "Lady Sings the Blues." It also incorrectly said that the cover of his 1975 album "Is It Something I Said?" depicts Klansmen; the album cover shows dark-robed figures.
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With Humor and Anger On Race Issues, Comic Inspired a Generation

Pryor, shown during a 1972 performance, initially drew influences from Bill Cosby, Redd Foxx and Jerry Lewis. But by the late 1960s, he had found his own voice in a series of characters lacerating conventions of the day.
Pryor, shown during a 1972 performance, initially drew influences from Bill Cosby, Redd Foxx and Jerry Lewis. But by the late 1960s, he had found his own voice in a series of characters lacerating conventions of the day. (Stax/fantasy Inc.)

He wrote for others, including the TV series "Sanford and Son," and won his Emmy in 1974 for his work writing "Lily," a comedy special for Lily Tomlin. Pryor helped Mel Brooks with the script of "Blazing Saddles" (1974) and was credited with two of the most memorable parts of the movie: the bean scene around the campfire and Madeline Kahn's gasped exclamation, after a private moment with the black sheriff, "It's twue, it's twue!"

By 1974, when he appeared in the film "Uptown Saturday Night," Pryor had found a comic acting formula that led to a string of box office hits. From "The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings" (1976) to "Which Way Is Up?" (1977), and "Bustin' Loose" (1981), he seemed to take over the screen with characters that were often elaborations of his stand-up personas.

"Richard Pryor works directly with the life around him, and he digs deeper in to fear and lust and anger and pain than many of the novelists and playwrights now taken seriously," David Denby wrote in New York magazine.

As his fame increased, so did his troubles. In the 1970s, he had been charged with failing to pay income taxes from 1967 to 1970, and he was convicted of marijuana possession.

He had a heart attack in 1978 and the same year was charged with firing a .357 magnum at his wife's car. Then came the freebasing episode in 1980, which Pryor later half-admitted was a suicide attempt.

In 1986, he made "Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling," an autobiographical film about a comedian looking back on his life after nearly dying. That year, after he began to grow weak, Pryor received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

He attempted a comeback as a stand-up comedian in 1992, but by then his failing health was evident. Nonetheless, he continued to perform throughout the 1990s.

Pryor had a tumultuous personal life. He married and divorced his fifth wife twice. His fourth wife, Jennifer Lee, whom Pryor had physically abused during their marriage, became his caregiver. He had seven children.

Upon receiving the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Award, Pryor said: "I am proud that, like Mark Twain, I have been able to use humor to lessen people's hatred."


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