A class clown in school and a community theater actor in his teens, Richard Pryor became a successful stand-up comedian, television writer and movie actor, starring in films like Stir Crazy and Greased Lightning. Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in but continued to perform for several more years. He died of a heart attack in Pryor was born on December 1, , in Peoria, Illinois. He got a rough start in life: His mother reportedly worked as a prostitute and his father was a bartender and boxer who served in the military during World War II. His parents married when he was 3 years old, but their union did not last.
Pryor drew in fans with stand-up comedy that was raw, honest and hilarious.
Richard Pryor drew in fans with stand-up comedy that was raw, honest and hilarious, but the women close to him said things were far from rosy and even, at times, downright frightening throughout his life. Jennifer Pryor, Richard's widow and an ABC News consultant, was married to him twice, in and in as he battled multiple sclerosis. She said his "talk therapy" was on stage. His childhood and adulthood -- from the wins to the losses -- were all fodder for his comedy sets. Offstage, she said, he struggled with living a life that "wasn't a party every day" and faced an increasingly dangerous battle with drug abuse. Richard Pryor was born on Dec. By his own accounts, his early years were spent living in a brothel with a mother who worked as a prostitute and a father who was a pimp.
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He has been acknowledged by many modern comic artist's as a key influence on their careers, and Pryor's observational humor on African-American life in the USA during the s was razor sharp brilliance. His mother, a prostitute, abandoned him when he was ten years of age, after which he was raised in his grandmother's brothel. Unfortunately, Pryor was molested at the age of six by a teenage neighbor, and later by a neighborhood preacher. To escape this troubled life, the young Pryor was an avid movie fan and a regular visitor to local movie theaters in Peoria. After he left the services in , Pryor started singing in small clubs, but inadvertently found that humor was his real forte. However, his unconventional approach to humor sometimes made bookings difficult to come by and this eventually saw Pryor heading to Los Angeles. However, his performance as a drug addicted piano player in Lady Sings the Blues , really got the attention of fans and film critics alike. Proving he was more than just a comedian, Pryor wowed audiences as a disenchanted auto worker who is seduced into betraying his friends and easy money in the Paul Schrader working class drama Blue Collar , also starring Yaphet Kotto and Harvey Keitel.