Richard Pryor Passes Away at 65

by | December 12, 2005 | Comments

Richard Pryor passed away yesterday morning, and while he’s probably best remembered for his incendiary stand-up material (as evidenced in 1979’s "Live in Concert," 1982’s "Live on the Sunset Strip," and 1983’s "Here and Now") and his also-incendiary battle with an exploding freebase pipe, I’ll always remember the guy as one of my favorite move-time comedians. And I know I’m not alone with that opinion.

So on the day we say goodbye to one of my generation’s most admired comedians, I say we take a look back and remember, y’know, all those funny movies….

He wasn’t allowed to play the Cleavon Little role in "Blazing Saddles," but Mr. Pryor did earn a screenplay credit … on one of the funniest movies ever made. Small roles in "Lady Sings the Blues" (1972), "The Mack" (1973), and "Uptown Saturday Night" (1974) led to bigger gigs in "Car Wash," "Adios Amigo," and "The Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars & Motor Kings" in 1976.

1976 would also see the first pairing between Pryor and another Mel Brooks pal, Gene Wilder. They co-starred in Arthur Hiller‘s "Silver Streak," which is a movie I’ve always liked a whole lot. (Classic scene: Pryor blackfacing Wilder and convincing him to walk jive.) The late 70s saw Richard Pryor pop in a wide variety of movies: "Which Way Is Up?" and "Greased Lightning" in 1977, "Blue Collar," "California Suite," and "The Wiz" in 1978, and "The Muppet Movie" in 1979.

Pryor might have begun the 1980s with a pair of certifiable turkeys ("In God We Tru$t" & "Wholly Moses!"), but it was a re-team with Gene Wilder (1981’s "Stir Crazy") that would make Richard Pryor adored by every 13-year-old in America. A few more missteps would follow (1981’s "Bustin’ Loose" & 1982’s "Some Kind of Hero"), but Pryor teamed up with Jackie Gleason and "Superman" director Richard Donner to deliver "The Toy," which made some solid coin despite being (imo) pretty darn awful. From there the comedian leaped into "Superman 3" (1983) and "Brewster’s Millions" (1985) before directing the thorny and semi-autobiographical "Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling" in 1986.

The deviation from funnyman formula didn’t sit too well with Pryor’s fans, but his subsequent comedies (1987’s "Critical Condition" & 1988’s "Moving") did nothing to win the fanbase over. Itching for some more of the old-school magic, Pryor teamed up with Gene Wilder for a third flick, the silly-yet-entertaining gimmick comedy "See No Evil, Hear No Evil," which has since gone on to become a cable flick guilty pleasure of the highest order. 1989 also saw Richard Pryor starring alongside the best in black comedy (Eddie Murphy and Redd Foxx included) in the odd misfire known as "Harlem Nights."

Aside from a nominal handful of throwaway cameos, Richard Pryor’s last movie was "Another You," a limp 1991 farce that saw the actor work with Gene Wilder for a fourth and final time. Even worse than the movie itself is the clear evidence that Mr. Pryor’s MS was limiting his abilities in a massive way.

Richard Pryor died last weekend at the age of 65, and while we’re all silently grateful that the man’s long-term suffering is now at an end, we can’t help but look back on all the great memories and feel some real sadness. Richard Pryor was one of the men who taught a whole what true comedy was, and his schtick, be it the family-friendly or the angry-raunchy kind, was always welcome in my home. He was a whole lot more than just some "funny guy." He was an absolute trailblazer, a pioneer, a guy who hoped to break down racial walls through the sheer power of giggles. He died too young, and he suffered too much, but I think the world is made just a little bit better by people like Richard Pryor. He shall be missed.

Tag Cloud

BBC America travel teaser vs. Fox Searchlight 45 Starz comic books anthology all-time Drama Legendary biopic Wes Anderson blockbuster Reality Competition Rocky asian-american Endgame comics a nightmare on elm street revenge rt labs chucky science fiction The CW Holiday Mudbound Apple TV Plus 79th Golden Globes Awards spanish Musical 4/20 TV movies Action X-Men Marvel Television archives Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt criterion mockumentary theme song basketball dogs The Witch Universal Pictures YouTube Red aapi deadpool spider-verse Stephen King ITV gangster Animation New York Comic Con Sundance Now tv talk Spike 72 Emmy Awards marvel comics Logo hidden camera art house halloween tv Universal concert police drama movie festivals TCA Winter 2020 Television Critics Association AMC international The Academy ABC Family romantic comedy Pride Month what to watch elevated horror directors werewolf Hulu south america anime Syfy LGBTQ Valentine's Day 90s DC Comics HBO Go cinemax blaxploitation sports Columbia Pictures 2021 A&E Paramount french target Hollywood Foreign Press Association Image Comics Ghostbusters SDCC psycho E3 Best Actor social media Arrowverse pirates of the caribbean remakes universal monsters Comic-Con@Home 2021 Best Director singing competition kids TBS crossover Black History Month FX superhero politics foreign black Musicals trophy suspense canceled TV shows Oscar ghosts movies Pet Sematary OneApp scary movies Disney+ Disney Plus Trailer hollywood Lucasfilm GIFs free movies Tags: Comedy unscripted blockbusters Netflix Christmas movies The Walking Dead mcc Star Wars 71st Emmy Awards mission: impossible Anna Paquin political drama TV Land Esquire series CW Seed royal family Disney streaming service rom-coms Amazon Prime Infographic Chernobyl Prime Video FXX Elton John toronto 2015 Broadway action-comedy Comedy Central australia venice First Look period drama diversity Masterpiece HBO obi wan adenture adaptation scorecard stand-up comedy TIFF Nickelodeon Disney Channel American Society of Cinematographers comic Ovation Adult Swim technology sequels Sony Pictures Pop Thanksgiving Freeform sequel psychological thriller 93rd Oscars halloween Quiz NBA Cosplay godzilla Britbox doctor who sopranos USA Red Carpet Hear Us Out Shondaland Family Crunchyroll Opinion AMC Plus YA docuseries space animated satire women Showtime Set visit Pirates Box Office Certified Fresh Rom-Com based on movie CNN sag awards Neflix Rocketman DGA SundanceTV high school hispanic know your critic japan laika 1990s hispanic heritage month scene in color Comedy parents Rock new york DC Universe Warner Bros. game of thrones Christmas twilight richard e. Grant Emmys japanese crime thriller Watching Series indie Comic Book Sundance BBC TCA 2017 Kids & Family fresh casting historical drama TV Black Mirror MCU Film Oscars marvel cinematic universe Trivia rt archives Biopics spinoff genre disaster new star wars movies Reality Women's History Month rt labs critics edition true crime cancelled TV shows television IFC comiccon worst movies CBS All Access nfl The Arrangement 20th Century Fox Video Games Walt Disney Pictures children's TV war independent indiana jones boxoffice harry potter hist reviews Horror die hard saw VOD zombies Mary Poppins Returns Fox News witnail Sci-Fi South by Southwest Film Festival stop motion composers Marathons LGBT documentaries TCA Awards OWN Polls and Games sitcom dreamworks telelvision live event ratings Superheroes mob Nat Geo Brie Larson spy thriller child's play scary popular game show Crackle Super Bowl National Geographic SXSW 2022 nbcuniversal 2020 PlayStation best streaming movies Teen Apple 24 frames Discovery Channel serial killer Tomatazos italian YouTube Premium ESPN natural history Avengers golden globe awards aliens Trophy Talk Awards Tour VH1 vampires Lionsgate DirecTV Emmy Nominations ViacomCBS joker WarnerMedia renewed TV shows Grammys cancelled RT21 2019 franchise lord of the rings documentary critic resources reboot Calendar robots christmas movies Winter TV Funimation dexter Baby Yoda golden globes Mary poppins Classic Film Disney comic book movies Awards leaderboard stoner Heroines olympics Best Actress E! facebook Year in Review PBS Winners Alien thriller Spectrum Originals batman comic book movie Amazon Studios The Walt Disney Company Western Hallmark PaleyFest President Hallmark Christmas movies FX on Hulu transformers Tarantino dramedy discovery trailers slasher latino Paramount Plus Exclusive Video spider-man talk show quibi miniseries spain Travel Channel Schedule Nominations young adult Character Guide Podcast Best and Worst name the review crime CMT black comedy spanish language kaiju cults adventure cars Bravo Amazon Prime Video video Film Festival Sneak Peek Pacific Islander nature legend TCA Comics on TV Mary Tyler Moore HBO Max ID The Purge 21st Century Fox Creative Arts Emmys Extras Interview HFPA Song of Ice and Fire critics Paramount Network TV renewals IMDb TV Election Fargo news comedies strong female leads See It Skip It Turner Classic Movies BAFTA Spring TV Food Network Pixar streaming king arthur justice league Turner Chilling Adventures of Sabrina A24 mutant jamie lee curtis Acorn TV 2018 Countdown cops cancelled TV series Tumblr crime drama Superheroe emmy awards Apple TV+ canceled superman book adaptation 2017 king kong YouTube History BET cooking Amazon TruTV NBC ABC Signature Ellie Kemper 99% kong festival Vudu new zealand screen actors guild TNT DC streaming service streamig dc jurassic park screenings green book GoT award winner football docudrama Summer Mystery Country Lifetime obituary worst Academy Awards 94th Oscars romance live action FOX First Reviews heist movie GLAAD IFC Films TLC Television Academy Dark Horse Comics binge Toys monster movies VICE medical drama Photos Epix dceu Disney Plus rotten RT History Marvel Tokyo Olympics Premiere Dates MTV boxing APB NYCC 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards rotten movies we love posters james bond Mindy Kaling Lifetime Christmas movies biography ABC dark Fantasy finale Tubi dragons razzies Sundance TV cats films El Rey book MGM Binge Guide 2016 WGN Best Picture USA Network toy story San Diego Comic-Con prank Writers Guild of America Cartoon Network cartoon fast and furious versus wonder woman Martial Arts TV One 007 Cannes Captain marvel Holidays zero dark thirty Fall TV Music 73rd Emmy Awards zombie Instagram Live Netflix Marvel Studios slashers SXSW feel good Shudder BBC One supernatural cancelled television video on demand debate BET Awards MSNBC Star Trek breaking bad Peacock classics Pop TV CBS TCM