Many have rightly labelled Richard Pryor as a comic genius. The American, who shot to fame in the late 1960s with his course stand up routines became famous for speaking his mind on matters ranging from race and politics to health and sex.
Some of this most popular shows include ‘… Is It Something I Said?’ and ‘Live On The Sunset Strip’. Richard may well be remembered as a controversial comic with a foul mouth from which cascaded profanity and scorn, but he also made the break into the acting industry where he sustained a long and successful career.
And that star-studded career was at a peak for more than two decades; comedians who followed Pryor often admitted to aspiring to his heights and career-wise he was an absolute beacon.
“He was the Charlie Parker of comedy, a master of telling the truth that influenced every comedian that came after him,” said Quincy Jones as he paid tribute to Pryor shortly after his death.
“The legacy that he leaves will forever be with us.”
Her personal life was a stark contrast to his professional career, married seven times to five women, it was also well recorded that Richard was partial to drugs and had been involved in domestic violence disputes.
The comic who died aged 65, reportedly shot at his wife’s car with a Magnum .357 in 1978 while she tried to leave him. It became one ofhis most famous domestic disputes and one which he included in his stand-up routineas part of the ‘Wanted/Richard Pryor – Live In Concert’ show
“They got Magnums too,” he said of the police. “But they don’t kill cars. They kill nig-gars.”
He hit the headlines again in 1980 when, after a cocaine binge, he doused himself in rum and set himself a light, the incident highlighting his many personal problems.
Richard has always been a survivor though and has lived through two heart attacks and quadruple bypass surgery. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis [MS] in 1986 and although at first he was given no indication of what lay ahead, a few months after the diagnosis he was hit hard by the illness.
“To be diagnosed was the hardest thing because I didn’t know what they were talking about and the doctor said `Don’t worry, in three months you’ll know.’
“So I went about my business and then, one day, it jumped me. I couldn’t get up. … Your muscles trick you; they did me.”
Although he attempted to continue working it soon became evident that his MS was progressing and he slowly became a mere shadow of himself. He still made cameo appearances and claimed royalties from his classic work but the strictures of his illness all but ended any hopes of working full-time.
After nearly two decades of battling MS, Richard Pryor passed away due to cardiac arrest in December 2005.