Becoming Richard Pryor

Becoming Richard Pryor

by Scott Saul


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A major biography—intimate, gripping, revelatory—of an artist who revolutionized American comedy.

Richard Pryor may have been the most unlikely star in Hollywood history. Raised in his family’s brothels, he grew up an outsider to privilege. He took to the stage, originally, to escape the hard-bitten realities of his childhood, but later came to a reverberating discovery: that by plunging into the depths of his experience, he could make stand-up comedy as exhilarating and harrowing as the life he’d known. He brought that trembling vitality to Hollywood, where his movie career—Blazing Saddles, the buddy comedies with Gene Wilder, Blue Collar—flowed directly out of his spirit of creative improvisation. The major studios considered him dangerous. Audiences felt plugged directly into the socket of life.

Becoming Richard Pryor brings the man and his comic genius into focus as never before. Drawing upon a mountain of original research—interviews with family and friends, court transcripts, unpublished journals, screenplay drafts—Scott Saul traces Pryor’s rough journey to the heights of fame: from his heartbreaking childhood, his trials in the Army, and his apprentice days in Greenwich Village to his soul-searching interlude in Berkeley and his ascent in the “New Hollywood” of the 1970s.

Becoming Richard Pryor illuminates an entertainer who, by bringing together the spirits of the black freedom movement and the counterculture, forever altered the DNA of American comedy. It reveals that, while Pryor made himself a legend with his own account of his life onstage, the full truth of that life is more bracing still.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062123329
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/08/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 748,685
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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Becoming Richard Pryor 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An excellent summary of a brilliant comedian, with faults and problems as big as his ego. No holds are barred in telling his story, warts and all. He changed comedy, but lived an ultimately tragic life--including extraordinary acts of domestic violence. He will be remembered, but with reservations.
LB909 More than 1 year ago
Becoming Richard Pryor is a well told story about the life of comedian Richard Pryor. Author Scott Saul gives great insight into the life of Pryor and what made him stand out as a comedian. A very good book.