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Richard Pryor
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Richard Pryor co-wrote two episodes of Sanford and Son with longtime friend and fellow comedian Paul Mooney.
Vital Information
Born: (1940-12-01)December 1, 1940
Birthplace: Peoria, Illinois, U.S.
Died December 10, 2005(2005-12-10) (aged 65)
Deathplace: Encino, California, U.S.
Family/Personal information
Character/series involvement
Appeared on/
Involved with:
Sanford and Son
Episodes appeared in: "The Dowry" (#2.3), and "Sanford and Son and Sister Makes Three" (#2.11) with Paul Mooney
Sanford and Son retro Wiki Script.png

Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor (December 1, 1940 – December 10, 2005) co-wrote two episodes of Sanford and Son, The Dowry (Season 2, episode #3), and Sanford and Son and Sister Makes Three (Season 2, episode #11) with longtime friend and fellow comedian Paul Mooney. A controversial, but brilliantly talented stand-up comedian, Richard also proved his mettle as a film/TV actor, vocal social critic, comedy writer, and emcee.[1]

Early life[]

Born in Peoria, Illinois, Young Richard grew up in his grandmother's brothel, where his mother, Gertrude L. (Thomas), practiced prostitution. His father, LeRoy "Buck Carter" Pryor was a former bartender and boxer.[2] After his mother abandoned him when he was 10, he was raised primarily by his grandmother Marie Carter,[3] a domeneering, austere, at times combative woman who would beat him at times for any of his eccentricities.[4] Pryor was one of four children raised in his grandmother's brothel and was molested as a child. [5]

Richard was expelled from school at the age of 14. His first professional performance was playing drums at a night club. Pryor served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960, but spent virtually the entire stint in an army prison. According to a 1999 profile about Pryor in The New Yorker, Pryor was incarcerated for an incident that occurred while stationed in Germany. Angered that a white soldier was a bit too amused at the racially charged sections of Douglas Sirk's movie Imitation of Life, Pryor and some other black soldiers beat and stabbed him, though not fatally.[6] [7]

During this time, Pryor's girlfriend gave birth to a girl named Renee. Years later, however, he found out that she was not his child. In 1960, he married Patricia Price and they had one child together, Richard Jr. (his first child and first son). They divorced in 1961.


Richard was known for uncompromising examinations of racism and topical contemporary issues, which employed colorful vulgarities, and profanity, as well as racial epithets. He reached a broad audience with his trenchant observations and storytelling style. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential stand-up comedians of his era: Jerry Seinfeld called Pryor "The Picasso of our profession";[8] Bob Newhart has called Pryor "the seminal comedian of the last 50 years."[9] This legacy can be attributed, in part, to the unusual degree of intimacy Pryor brought to bear on his comedy. As Bill Cosby reportedly once said, "Richard Pryor drew the line between comedy and tragedy as thin as one could possibly paint it."

His body of work includes the concert movies and recordings Richard Pryor: Live & Smokin' (1971), That Nigger's Crazy (1974), ...Is It Something I Said? (1975), Bicentennial Nigger (1976), Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979), Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), and Richard Pryor: Here and Now (1983). He also starred in numerous big budget, high box office grossing films as an actor, such as Superman III (1983) but was usually in comedies such as Silver Streak (1976), and occasionally in dramatic roles, such as Paul Schrader's film Blue Collar (1978). He collaborated on many projects with actor Gene Wilder. Another frequent collaborator was actor/comedian/writer Paul Mooney.

Pryor won an Emmy Award (1973), and five Grammy Awards (1974, 1975, 1976, 1981, and 1982). In 1974, he also won two American Academy of Humor awards and the Writers Guild of America Award. The first ever Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was presented to him in 1998. Pryor is listed at Number 1 on Comedy Central's list of all-time greatest stand-up comedians.

Personal life[]

Health problems[]

Pryor suffered a mild heart attack in November 1977. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986.[10] In 1990, Pryor suffered a second and more severe heart attack and underwent triple heart bypass surgery. By the early 1990s, he was confined to using a wheelchair as well as a motor powered scooter for the remainder of his life to get around when his multiple sclerosis began to take its toll on his body.

Freebasing incident[]

On June 9, 1980, during the making of the film Bustin' Loose, Richard Pryor set himself on fire after freebasing cocaine and drinking 151-proof rum. While on fire, he ran down Parthenia Street from his Northridge, California home, until being subdued by police. He was taken to the hospital, where he was treated for burns covering more than half of his body. Pryor spent six weeks in recovery at the Grossman Burn Center at Sherman Oaks Hospital. His daughter, Rain Pryor, stated that Pryor poured high-proof rum over his body and set himself on fire in a bout of drug-induced psychosis.[11]

Pryor incorporated a description of the incident into his comedy show Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip in 1982. He joked that the event was caused by dunking a cookie into a glass of low-fat and pasteurized milk, causing an explosion. At the end of the bit, he poked fun at people who told jokes about it by waving a lit match and saying, "What's that? Richard Pryor running down the street."

After his "final performance", Pryor did not stay away from stand-up comedy long. In 1983, he filmed and released a new concert film and accompanying album, Richard Pryor: Here and Now, which he directed himself. In 1986, he wrote and directed a fictionalized account of his life, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling which revolved around the 1980 freebasing incident.

Marriages and relationships[]

Pryor was married seven times to five different women:

  1. Patricia Price (1960–1961, divorced) with one child named Richard Pryor Jr.
  2. Shelly Bonis (1967–1969, divorced) with one child named Rain Pryor
  3. Deborah McGuire (September 22, 1977 – 1979, divorced)
  4. Jennifer Lee (August 1981 – October 1982, divorced)
  5. Flynn Belaine (October 1986 – July 1987, divorced) with son Steven (born before the marriage) and daughter Kelsey (before divorce finalized)
  6. Flynn Belaine (1 April 1990 – July 1991, divorced)
  7. Jennifer Lee (June 29, 2001 – December 10, 2005, his death)

His marriages were characterized by accusations of domestic violence, except for his relationship with Belaine. Most of these allegations were connected to Pryor's drug use. The exception was Patricia Price, who was married to Pryor before his rise to stardom. During his relationship with Pam Grier, Pryor proposed to Deborah McGuire in 1977.

He had six children: Richard Jr., Elizabeth, Rain, Steven, Franklin and Kelsey.

In 1984, his fourth child and second son, Steven, was born to his girlfriend Flynn Belaine. Pryor married Belaine in October 1986. They divorced in July 1987. Before their divorce was final, Belaine conceived Kelsey Pryor. Meanwhile, another of Pryor's girlfriends, Geraldine Mason, gave birth to Franklin Mason, his fifth child and third son, in April 1987. Six months later in October 1987, Belaine gave birth to Kelsey Pryor, Richard's sixth child and third daughter.

Pryor had a relationship with actress Margot Kidder.[12]


On December 10, 2005, Pryor suffered a heart attack in Encino, California. He was taken to a local hospital after his wife's attempts to resuscitate him failed. He was pronounced dead at 7:58 am PST. He was 65 years old. His widow Jennifer was quoted as saying, "At the end, there was a smile on his face." He was cremated and his ashes were given to his family.


  1. Richard Pryor-the Mafia Night Club at YouTube
  2. Richard Pryor's official biography
  3. Richard Pryor website biography,, accessed 2010-06-17.
  4. Richard Pryor at accessed 2010-06-17.
  5. Jones, Steve. "Comedian Richard Pryor dies at 65" USA Today. December 10, 2005
  6. The New Yorker Magazine.
  7. Als, Hilton (September 13, 1999). "A Pryor Love". The New Yorker.
  8. Morton, Bruce (December 28, 2005). "Those We Lost". CNN. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
  9. American Masters . Bob Newhart PBS
  10. Richard Pryor , by Richard Pryor for, accessed 2010-06-17
  11. Interview with Rain Pryor, November 6, 2006, edition of People, page 76.
  12. Nathan Rabin. Random Roles: Margot Kidder (interview) The A.V. Club, March 3, 2009