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

VH1 SDCC 007 Turner south america Film Lifetime Cartoon Network SXSW dceu Animation Elton John Best and Worst crime thriller what to watch comics crossover adaptation harry potter award winner vampires Christmas Teen breaking bad Writers Guild of America Food Network screenings Bravo TNT Horror children's TV true crime dragons Pet Sematary Heroines Logo The Arrangement Pop TV Paramount Network Fantasy Western elevated horror game show BET Musical teaser name the review Starz Disney+ Disney Plus anthology zombies Dark Horse Comics Oscars 24 frames President spider-man slashers Rock MCU CW Seed USA History crime drama boxoffice sequel stand-up comedy latino cops Superheroe 2017 Comic Book quibi Anna Paquin Chernobyl book Premiere Dates cults Comics on TV discovery Shondaland Mystery spanish language singing competition war Sony Pictures cats Reality Competition period drama Podcast Opinion Box Office ITV Disney streaming service Reality PBS binge Mudbound Certified Fresh green book crime Showtime richard e. Grant Ghostbusters DirecTV Netflix Christmas movies 2016 Music Quiz OWN universal monsters Polls and Games Cosplay CBS All Access free movies casting Calendar Apple Film Festival ghosts Superheroes Warner Bros. christmas movies Funimation Spring TV LGBTQ zero dark thirty jamie lee curtis theme song Baby Yoda Walt Disney Pictures Marathons hist Musicals Marvel Television Lucasfilm Grammys psychological thriller finale strong female leads Biopics adventure Photos Disney Channel movie Country Sneak Peek DC Comics Mary Poppins Returns TCA 2017 series DGA MSNBC Set visit E! 2018 Martial Arts First Look documentary Red Carpet IFC Films animated anime Star Wars GLAAD VICE sag awards Schedule APB Ovation renewed TV shows Arrowverse IFC Nominations disaster NYCC Hallmark Peacock A24 71st Emmy Awards Avengers See It Skip It MTV cancelled indie Pride Month Holidays diversity TCM psycho GoT Syfy Summer based on movie The Walking Dead TV renewals natural history Nickelodeon TCA Winter 2020 Star Trek Interview Valentine's Day NBC PaleyFest FOX Vudu American Society of Cinematographers cancelled TV series Drama Countdown 20th Century Fox Black Mirror RT History El Rey TIFF joker Holiday biography Cannes Columbia Pictures Winter TV political drama golden globes Mindy Kaling Tomatazos Family Awards BBC historical drama docudrama SundanceTV Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Academy Awards Kids & Family Spike dogs Watching Series Classic Film Sundance mockumentary Rocky FX Fox News video franchise 2019 Comedy sitcom Amazon Prime CNN Tumblr toy story Discovery Channel Masterpiece mutant sports canceled TV shows Sundance TV HBO Max Epix robots The Witch X-Men game of thrones YA Trophy Talk YouTube Red Marvel Studios Netflix Endgame Shudder romantic comedy zombie hispanic CMT Freeform versus Sci-Fi cartoon Lionsgate A&E WarnerMedia First Reviews science fiction E3 Brie Larson cinemax dramedy thriller Stephen King miniseries Emmys Election blaxploitation ABC Family Ellie Kemper DC Universe reviews Television Academy reboot Travel Channel revenge unscripted Emmy Nominations 2020 Creative Arts Emmys scary movies Esquire Binge Guide Hulu streaming Disney Plus Character Guide Infographic FX on Hulu Rocketman Nat Geo Black History Month Turner Classic Movies BBC America Adult Swim medical drama 45 Pirates Tarantino festivals directors cancelled television spinoff Winners The Purge Paramount doctor who ABC aliens Marvel TV Trailer Song of Ice and Fire transformers romance Apple TV+ Pop Pixar WGN FXX Amazon Prime Video Toys Universal YouTube Lifetime Christmas movies Crunchyroll San Diego Comic-Con Awards Tour independent nature Year in Review Acorn TV 2015 dc Comedy Central Thanksgiving TLC Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt cooking Trivia AMC halloween Super Bowl space comiccon Disney HBO Fall TV CBS Britbox serial killer technology rotten movies we love RT21 ESPN Sundance Now Amazon Studios Apple TV Plus cars social media composers Mary poppins politics movies Spectrum Originals OneApp Extras spain werewolf police drama Amazon Rom-Com Action talk show cancelled TV shows TBS television Video Games spy thriller comic The CW Tubi USA Network Crackle justice league YouTube Premium National Geographic witnail blockbuster supernatural kids Captain marvel GIFs TCA canceled foreign New York Comic Con Mary Tyler Moore batman TruTV TV Land 21st Century Fox screen actors guild Hallmark Christmas movies travel DC streaming service ratings LGBT tv talk Women's History Month facebook