Groundbreaking comedian Richard Pryor died of a heart attack on Saturday at the age of 65.
Well known in his career as one of the most foul-mouthed comics in the business, he gained a wide following for his painfully honest and caustically perceptive routines. After nearly losing his life in 1980 when he caught on fire while freebasing cocaine, he incorporated the ordeal into his later acts.
After years working comedy clubs, he made a series of gig films so successful he was soon able to negotiate a high-earning deal with Hollywood studios: in 1983, he signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures. His films included Stir Crazy, Silver Streak, Which Way Is Up? and Richard Pryor Live On The Sunset Strip. And he’s also well known – though he may not necessarily want to be – for appearing in Superman III.
Pryor also wrote scripts for the television series Sanford And Son, The Flip Wilson Show and two specials for Lily Tomlin. He co-wrote Blazing Saddles with Mel Brooks.
He battled multiple sclerosis throughout the '90s, even playing an MS sufferer on US TV medical drama Chicago Hope, which scored him an Emmy nomination as best guest actor in a drama series.
Pryor once marvelled "that I live in racist America and I'm uneducated, yet a lot of people love me and like what I do, and I can make a living from it. You can't do much better than that."
He’s survived by his wife, Jennifer Lee Pryor and his six children, Richard Pryor, Jr., Elizabeth Stordeur, Rain Kindlin, Kelsey Pryor, Steven Pryor, Franklin Mason and his three grandchildren.
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