Becoming Richard Pryor

Becoming Richard Pryor

by Scott Saul
Becoming Richard Pryor

Becoming Richard Pryor

by Scott Saul


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Becoming Richard Pryor is a book that breaks new ground. . . . Saul details the amazing way that Richard found his way out of the life for which he seemed destined and into the world of the performing arts.”  —New York Times

Richard Pryor may have been the most unlikely star in Hollywood history. Raised in his family’s brothels, in Peoria, Illinois, by a grandmother who often threatened to kick him upstairs with her size-twelve shoes, he always considered himself a bottom dog. He took to the stage originally to escape the tough realities of his childhood but later discovered he could alchemize his stand-up by delving fully, even painfully, into the “off-color” life he’d known. He brought that vitality to a movie career whose best moments—Blazing SaddlesBlue Collar, the buddy comedies with Gene Wilder—flowed directly out of his spirit of creative improvisation. The major studios considered him dangerous. Audiences felt plugged directly into the socket of life.

Built on groundbreaking research, Becoming Richard Pryor brings into sharp focus the man and his genius as never before. From his heartbreaking childhood, his trials in the army, and his improv days in Greenwich Village to his soul-searching interlude in Berkeley and his rise in the “New Hollywood” of the 1970s, Becoming Richard Pryor sheds light on an entertainer who, by uniting the spirits of the Black Power movement and the counterculture, forever altered the cultural DNA of America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062123329
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 12/08/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 640,164
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Scott Saul is a professor of English at the University of California–Berkeley. His writing has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times, and The Nation, among other publications. He is the author of Freedom Is, Freedom Ain’t: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties. He lives in Berkeley, California.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Prologue 1

Part 1 Up From Peoria

Chapter 1 Dangerous Elements 7

Chapter 2 The Backside of Life 20

Chapter 3 The Law of the Lash 37

Chapter 4 Glow, Glow Worm, Glow 59

Chapter 5 The Boot 75

Chapter 6 The Measure of a Man 92

Part 2 Man Of A Thousand Rubber Faces

Chapter 7 In Search of Openness 111

Chapter 8 Mr. Congeniality 128

Chapter 9 An Irregular Regular 147

Chapter 10 The Person in Question 166

Part 3 In The House Of Pain

Chapter 11 The King Is Dead 187

Chapter 12 Black Sun Rising 209

Chapter 13 Irreconcilable Differences 225

Chapter 14 I'm a Serious Mother 245

Part 4 King Of The scene Stealers

Chapter 15 The More I Talk, the Less I Die 273

Chapter 16 Black Goes First 299

Chapter 17 Be Glad When It's Spring, Flower 318

Chapter 18 Number One with a Bullet 336

Part 5 The Funniest Man On The Planet

Chapter 19 Every Nigger Is a Star 361

Chapter 20 Hustling 384

Chapter 21 A Man of Parts 404

Chapter 22 Giving Up Absolutely Nothing 427

Chapter 23 Can I Speak to God Right Away? 448

Epilogue 471

Acknowledgments 489

Notes 493

Index 565

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