The biggest myth about my dad, Richard Pryor, is that he was aware of his “big time” status. Celebrities today are aware of their positions. Social media only started to take off when my father’s health started to deteriorate. That meant he lacked a visual cue to determine whether he was hot or not. Because comedy was who he was, he was passionate about it. a satirist.
When we were out one day, a veteran came up to Daddy and said, “Your humor helped me through some tough days in Vietnam. Sir, I want to thank you. Dad’s eyes started to cry up. I did that, he murmured as he turned to face me.
My father spent his early years performing stand-up in bars and penning TV scripts after being born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1940. He achieved success by making appearances on shows like Mike Douglas and Ed Sullivan.
Then, one night in 1967, while performing at a regular performance at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, he realized he was playing for primarily white tourists and left the stage mid-set.
He said, in his own words, “I feel inauthentic because the majority of the audience is white people.”
After that evening, Daddy lost his job. The finest thing that could have happened to his humor may have been this.
He had had enough of playing for white audiences and working for white males within the system for years.
He wished to remain true to himself and his African American identity.
He wanted to be himself most of all. He attended Berkeley, where the Black Panthers, the burgeoning counterculture, and the anti-war movements had an impact on him.
Richard Pryor gained freedom. He was prepared to explode at the machine.
His political and social upheaval irrevocably altered both his comedy and comedy itself. He added an essential and sincere realism to his comedy by addressing issues like racism, sexuality, slavery, and police brutality.
My father was able to unite people through laughter rather than dividing them by using comedy to let people realize their own flaws and vulnerabilities.
When he decided to deliberately stick it to the man, his life was forever changed.
He made the decision to become one of the wealthiest Black men and to operate his own production company at Columbia by refusing to remain bound by the restrictions placed on him by white males in Hollywood.
In order to become the Richard Pryor we know today, my father made the decision to let go of what “they” wanted him to be. For him, this was important and liberating.
Despite all this, Daddy never thought of himself as a trailblazer. He thought of himself as doing what he understood and liked. In order to pursue his creative goals more fully, he regarded himself as breaking free (again) from the confines of small-town Peoria and “The Man.”
He never wanted to leave a lasting impression. That simply occurred as a result of his willingness to take chances.
For his contribution as a Black man in America who overcame the barriers to become a director, producer, and writer with a studio office in the 1970s and 1980s, I feel a deep feeling of pride and admiration.
At a time when Black men were still fighting to be accepted as the majority in a white racist culture, he was a guy who could face his problems and express his vulnerability.
There wouldn’t be an Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, or Dave Chappelle without Richard Pryor.
He has earned the right to be considered one of, if not the best stand-up comic of all time thanks to the publication of numerous albums that reached the top of the charts, won Grammy Awards, and featured in blockbuster films.
But he didn’t do it to gain notoriety or accolades. He considered comedy to be a job that he practiced to make a living. He had been called as a surgeon to the operation room.
He was a true standup who never truly saw himself in the same way as his admirers did.
He was a Black man from Peoria who had the good fortune to succeed in life. Even though he had platinum and gold records on the walls, he didn’t seem to admire them as he walked by them in the hallway.
He was reflective at home, where he watched sports and talked about politics. He was a Black man speaking his truth on stage, and he was electric and free.