The two most beautiful words in the world of comedy -
Good evening. Wait for the people to get from the bathroom.
They're in there pissing. Wait, the shit's started.
Richard Pryor, undisputed champion of the world.
The greatest of all times. Case closed. Period. Exclamation point.
This is the fun part for me when the white people come back after intermission and find out Niggers have stole their seats.
"We were sitting here, weren't we?" "Yes, we were sitting right there."
"Well, you ain't sitting there now, motherfucker!"
It's amazing to see him live. It's like saying you saw Coltrane play.
What you taking my picture for?
You know you ain't got no film in the camera.
Just flash and ain't nothing flash. Sit your ugly ass down.
Most of us saw Richard and thought, he's free flying.
I want to free fly. I love when white dudes get mad and cuss.
Cos you're all some funny motherfuckers when you cuss.
Says, "Like, come on, pecker head!"
"Come on, you fucking jerk-off. Come on!"
Yeah. You fucking ain't right, buddy.
Niggers speak like, "Buddy this."
Always talked about making them brave enough to see themselves.
And the demons he wanted to exorcise in the audience became demons that he found hard to exorcise in himself.
Richard Pryor, the comedian and writer, was badly burned in an accident at his home in California last night.
Authorities say Richard Pryor either walked or ran nearly a mile and a half from his house to this location, where an ambulance rescued him.
There was an indication that a butane lighter exploded on Mr Pryor. What can you tell us about that?
Right now, I'm not going to say anything about cause or determination until we know anything for sure.
Is there any indication there might have been some manufacturing of drugs on the premises?
I can't say that either at this time.
Pryor's attorney talked with reporters and disputed the LAPD theory that Pryor was using freebase cocaine.
He had a glass of rum in his hand.
He was lighting a cigarette when boom.
No cocaine. No cocaine.
If anyone is monitoring the intercom, let me inform you that we have the right to check the premises for flammables.
We intend to make entry by force if necessary.
We have a verbal search warrant.
Fire and police investigators obtained a search warrant and forcibly entered Pryor's home to look for clues this morning.
But police said someone had already cleaned up the scene of the fire and they could find no evidence.
Everybody had this sense that something was ultimately going to happen and it finally did.
This is it. He's finally killed himself.
For the first time on television, Richard Pryor.
Er, I'm going to tell you a few things about myself, because a lot of you probably don't know me. I'm not a New Yorker.
My home's in Peoria, Illinois. And, er...
I'm from an average type family - 11 kids.
No mother and father, just kids.
I was roaming around Greenwich Village and I wandered into the Cafe au Go Go.
And I saw this guy do a set and I was completely mesmerised.
I thought this guy is going to be a major star, if I can get him to be able to put two sentences together without "fuck, motherfucker, cunt".
The next party you go to, everybody'll be dancing away, having a heck of a time.
There will be one guy in the corner by himself, checking himself out.
Everybody else will be dancing. One guy in the corner... Hm. Doo.
Richard and I would have to goes through the material, rehearsing and preparing.
And it was never to make it funny. It was to make cleaner.
I went to the opening night at his first legitimate gig at The Living Room, which was a chic East Side boite.
And it was very crowded.
The maitre d' said, could Nipsey Russell join you?
Sure. Nipsey sat down.
All during the show, Nipsey's going... Hm. Tsk.
I said, what's wrong? At the end of the show. What was wrong?
He said, "He's doing Bill Cosby."
Bill Cosby did what they called the crossover.
He'd gotten white people to like him.
I think Richard thought he had to imitate Bill to get over to become part of the circus or whatever it was.
Success came within a year. Yes.
How is it up here? Oh, wow! How does it come out?
Oh, hostile. Really? Oh, yes. I go out. I don't know. I go crazy.
Tell us the big things that are going to happen to you.
A big thing that's going to happen is, I'm going to Las Vegas.
He plays Vegas in 1966. He's a huge success.
That world that he so aspired to join, wanted to impress everybody, wanted to be a big star with his name in lights.
Suddenly, there's a hollowness to that price.
APPLAUSE I want to really tell you, it's really wow being here.
My home's in Midwest, Illinois. Peoria.
Peoria where? Yeah. Peoria where? Peoria, Illinois.
When he was in Las Vegas performing, he looked out in the audience and saw some white people.
Dean Martin was in the audience and he was looking at him.
And Richard said, "I looked at Dean Martin through his own eyes
"and saw me looking like a damn fool."
It was like an epiphany. I don't want to do it that way any more.
I want to do it the way I hear it.
That was probably when Richard Pryor decided to become Richard Pryor.
In the middle of the night, I got a call.
You'd better get out here, because Richard Pryor has just gone nuts and he's literally hanging from the chandeliers in the lobby.
I want him out of the hotel, and he is finished.
No. Nice talking to you. You know.
It was all over town. You heard what happened last night.
And I think he was fired the next day.
It was so public, he had a Vegas gig. That's what every comic wants.
And you blew it?!
And I guess everybody thought, well, that's the end of Richard Pryor.
I did not hear from him.
I did not know where he was.
Richard was gone.
Don't try to find no logic.
A lot of this in here, logic is omitted.
At some time to understand Richard, you had to first omit logic.
And then you come close.
What you think it ought to be, it ain't going to be nothing like it.
# Talking, talking to the people
# Try to get them to go your way
# Tell the girl not to worry... #
Richard has to start all over again. He had a new name.
It was Edward or Edwin or something stupid.
It's what I'm going to call myself.
I'm going to come and pretend like I have nothing and see how, get to know these people here, the hippies, I'm going to be one of them.
He gave up everything.
He gave up his driver's licence, his bank account.
He gave up any kind of ID.
He lived in this horrible little clapboard boarding house.
He invited me to go to an after party.
And, um, we weren't apart for like six years.
I am. I am. A revolutionary.
There was a lot of things going on.
People asserting their rights. Demonstrations.
A lot of ferment in the big areas.
Something different was happening with African-American culture.
It had come into its own.
Richard showed up. And gave it new life.
There used to be some beautiful black man, would come through the neighbourhood, dressed in African shit.
Really nice shit, you know. They'd be, "Peace, love, black is beautiful.
"Remember the essence of life. We are people of the universe.
"Life is beautiful." My parents go, "That Nigger crazy."
No-one had heard him using the N-word the way he does.
He was just starting to do that. He was tiptoeing into it.
In comedy, you'd just never heard anything like this.
Richard would nudge this audience to some kind of feeling about who they really were. So, he's telling the joke.
And, er, white guy in the back says, "You ought to be glad I've got a sense of humour."
Richard said, "Yeah, I am glad you've got a sense of humour, "because I know what you do to us Niggers."
He was acutely aware of the dynamics of political, racial segregation.
I'd hate to be white...
This audience that he was playing to was as hip an audience as you could get.
And they weren't sure they were going to go along.
That's how radical Richie was.
I think he was very conscious of what he was doing.
Richard knew how to drop atomic bomb words.
He knew that words were powerful.
They accidentally shoot more Niggers out here than any place in the world.
Every time you pick up a paper, "Nigger accidentally shot in the ass."
How do you accidentally shoot a Nigger six times in the chest?
"Well, my gun fell and just went crazy."
He was fully blown as Richie Pryor. It was astonishing.
His point of view, his attack on the culture from every version.
No holds barred. Not thinking about a career.
Not thinking about what you have to do to be right and wrong.
He wasn't a civil rights leader, like you would say Louie Newton or Martin Luther King.
But he was somebody who inculcated the spirit of the movement.
Richard, in Berkeley, was, you know, a lovable person.
But Berkeley's not the world.
You had to meet the monster. You had to go through Hollywood.
# Where do I go when this world forsakes me
# Who do I turn to when they put me down?
# You are my hope when they all can't stop me
# You're my beginning, my middle My end... #
I met Richard Pryor in 1972.
At an upscale garden party in Beverly Hills.
I asked him what he was doing, and he said, "Nothing."
I said, "I know you're doing nothing, "but what are you working at?"
He said, "I'm not working at anything. I'm unemployed."
I said, "How long have you been unemployed?" He said, "A long time."
I said, "Really? Who's managing you?" "Nobody."
"Whose agenting you?" "Nobody."
He didn't really have any place to go at that time, so he took a job, doing punch-up lines for Red Fox.
I thought, "This is not right."
So, I said to Richie, "Let's record an album."
Don't ever marry a white woman in California.
A lot of you sisters are probably, "Don't marry a white woman anyway, Nigger."
"Why should you be happy?"
Sisters look at you like you killed your mama when you're out with a white woman.
You can't laugh that shit off either.
"She's not with me."
Richard said, "Look, I know that you like it and I know that I like it.
"Black people don't like this."
I said, "Richard, I can't answer that. I don't know."
He said, "Let's hope so. If not, we're both out of business."
I don't know how you feel about the title of your album, but I find it difficult to say. You do.
Most white people, it's hard to say "crazy".
No, the title. You tell them the title of the album. I can't say that.
The title of the album is "That Nigger's Crazy."
See now, you can just say that. If I said that, won't you get mad?
I'd punch you out.
When I was in my college years, we'd get together and play Richard Pryor LPs and have listening parties.
My father was fun. "Hey, bitch, where the food?"
"Goddamn mother, come on. Oh, you motherfucker!"
Saying "fuck" in those days was unheard of.
They had blue laws, for crying out loud. It was just a secret.
It was like learning how to say, "Motherfucker, bitch. Kiss my ass."
The people that had it first, I don't know why. They were pimps and hos.
This is the only guy really touching on some shit like, "Oh, taboo to other people. Don't go there."
He was the Messiah - the messenger.
For the real Niggers in the streets that wanted to express themselves but couldn't.
The album was a Grammy award winner.
Number one on the R&B charts in 1974 for five weeks, which is unheard of for a comedy album in the R&B charts.
This was a time when Richard was moving up very quickly.
It was rather like being fired out of a cannon.
We hardly ever went to two gigs in sequence.
From LA, to Washington, back to LA, to New York, back to LA.
You use the term, "Nigger."
Now, does the black community get on you for using that on a show?
Sure. How do you answer that? What do you say?
I say, "Nigger, get out of my face!"
People were fascinated with Richard, especially white people.
They never heard anybody talk like that. They were fascinated.
How could this young, black person have this kind of power?
When he would drive down and perform, word would spread.
Everybody got on the phone and said, "Richard's at The Comedy Store."
The word got out so quickly that Richard was backstage at The Comedy Store.
By the time he got on, there wasn't a comedian in town who wasn't in the audience.
I took some acid once, too. A white dude get me some. At a party.
"This is far out."
Get the fuck out of my face!
About 20 minutes later, I left the party. I can't breathe!
I don't remember how to breathe!
"I told you it was far out."
When he performed, he would sometimes make a couple of notes on the back of an envelope of some of the things he might do.
He never worked out in advance what his... It wasn't really a routine.
Every night, you see something different that you hadn't seen before.
He would do a riff here and a riff there. Just spontaneously.
What kind of shit are you handing me?
What the fuck is it? I don't know what you're handing me to sign.
What the fuck does it say on it?
Champagne! Listen, I ain't signing for no goddamn champagne.
He was always doing something new.
All of a sudden, "Oh, my God, look what he's doing now!"
He wasn't just telling jokes, he was telling stories.
And stories that were so vivid and so funny that you had to stay with him.
And you think, "OK, that's amazing."
I mean, he just had that laser-like wit.
Bringing so much tenderness to it. Doing the wino on the street.
I'm going to help you, boy, because I think you've got potential.
That's right. You can do with some money. You're shot.
You know what I mean? Try some of that.
Don't you drop it, Nigger. Put it safe.
Watching the world...
If these were my kids, I would never have known but for Richard Pryor.
What a colourful world it is that he paints.
He'd go out and he'd do two minutes, three minutes - sometimes, if the wind was right, he'd do four or five minutes.
Eventually, there'd be about 40 minutes of material.
In those 40 minutes of material, he knew then he could get from there to a concert.
I discovered masturbating by accident.
I'm not lying. I was about ten. I was in a tub.
And that's when you used to hold your dick with two fingers.
I'm on to something here.
I bet Dad don't know about this.
He understood how to excavate the human soul on stage in front of 600 people without blinking.
First time I came to ejaculate, it scared the fuck out of me.
I thought something was wrong.
I just went, this woman, "Look, what the fuck you've done there!"
About an hour later, I was back. "Can you do it again?"
I think if comedy was a woman I'm in love with, I know Richard Pryor would just fuck the shit out of her.
He'd fuck her in every orifice of her body.
Can I...? Is there anywhere this guy didn't fucking put his prints on?
Richard had become big in the live concert, doing his brand of risque humour.
These large audiences were fascinated with Richard.
He had not crossed into film.
Somehow, Berry Gordy tracked him down and wanted him to audition for the role of Piano Man in the film he was about to do of Billie Holiday, which was going to star Diana Ross.
Lady Sings The Blues, when Richard auditioned, they let him do improv.
You can't let Richard to improv, he'll steal the show.
Which he did. The rest is history.
Everybody got a room full of girls at home.
You're just going to be another one.
Billie, you've got too much going. You don't need this.
He was huge in Lady Sings The Blues.
It sealed it for him in terms of his performance and having the audience crave to see more of him.
That part got bigger and bigger and bigger.
By the time they finished cutting that movie, Richard was co-star in that movie.
I met him in '72. He wasn't that famous, but the word was out.
I said to him, why don't you meet me for breakfast? He said, "Breakfast.
"OK. I'll meet you at four." I said, "Four?!"
I told him about a black sheriff in 1874. He loved the idea.
He just loved it.
I said, "I'm going to fight for you to be the lead in Blazing Saddles."
I said, "Look, I'm going to write it like a gang comedy.
"Anybody got a good idea, it's in. We're all going to be equal.
"I will be a little more equal than anybody else, "but we're all going to be equal and we're all going to have fun.
"I want you to be one of the writers."
He called me up.
And said, "Listen, I would like to be the star of that film, "Blazing Saddles. That would be terrific."
This is going to be something big.
I wrote most of the black jokes, and Richard wrote most of the Mongo jokes.
He was like this big, tough baby.
Richard wrote lines like, "Mongo only pawn in game of life."
He wrote these meshuggener, wacky lines.
The next day, he showed up in my apartment with cigars and a very expensive Dunhill lighter, and I said, "What's this?"
He said, "We're going to be signing a lot of contracts."
Somebody high up at Warner Brothers had heard that Richard was doing drugs and Richard was unreliable and I was fighting.
He said, "We appreciate his contribution as a writer.
"It's the starring role. We won't star him in the picture."
It got to the fucking board of Warner Brothers, where he lost on some vote, and that was it. You know.
He wished that he got the starring role.
That was a disappointment, a major disappointment.
Just put him over the edge when they said that.
And he became high, so high and out of control.
So he decided to shoot up the house.
We had a huge saltwater fish tank - 150 gallons. It was huge.
And, of course, it killed all the fish and buckled the floor and shot the Charlie Parker painting that was hanging above the fireplace.
A huge Charlie Parker painting.
He shot him in the heart.
It's really hard to live in Hollywood.
It's so controlled by white men.
Very hard to do anything, because they're so greedy. So insecure.
He decided he was going to fire everyone and start all over.
New lawyers, new agent, new manager.
He called Ron and just said it was over.
I mean, it was a pretty harsh, cold moment.
So, what became of the change of heart?
He said, "I don't know, man. Just did."
I puzzled over that for many, many years.
I don't movies when they don't have no Niggers in them.
I went to see Logan's Run, right.
They had a movie of the future called Logan's Run, and there ain't no Niggers in it.
I said, "Well, white folks ain't planning for us to be here."
That's why we've got to make movies.
David was a very powerful black manager, based out of Atlanta.
Very militant. Very pro-black.
Very, very smart.
A gift for making huge deals and huge money.
And Hollywood loved David.
David Franklin was a pudgy, brilliant, black man, who stuttered.
And Richard loved that.
He said, "Because he st-st-utters, he can ge-get sympathy."
So, David went on to manage Richard, be his agent and act as his lawyer.
Other than Richard's pure talent, David was absolutely responsible for Richard becoming really big in film.
We did nine or ten pictures together.
The first of them, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings, about the Negro National Leagues.
Like batting averages.
See, you take the number of times a man been in bat and you divide that by the number of times a man got a hit.
Like me, I've been in bat 100 times. I've got 25 hits. That's simple.
25 goes into 100 four times. It gives me a batting average of four.
That's wrong. That ain't no way to do that.
The second film was Car Wash.
I wasn't going to make that movie without Richard.
Believe in the Lord and, most of all, believe in that federal dream.
I remember the day that David came back from a meeting with Richard, driving a brand-new Rolls-Royce.
He must have been doing something that was making Richard pretty happy for Richard to give him a brand-new Rolls-Royce as a gift.
Right at that moment, the notion that he could hold the lead in a picture was a totally unproven notion.
Take this radio. When you step out of here, you got to step out of here like king shit.
Right, you bad. Put that radio to your ear.
That's going to help cover your face.
Just move with the rhythm of the music.
Move your body with the rhythm of the music.
That's all you've got to do now. Let me see you try.
Step to the music. Step to the music. Yeah.
Step to the music. Stop.
How come you whities got such a tight ass, man? Do it.
Can't you feel it?
He basically launched a new genre of comedy.
Interracial buddy comedy.
This was a new kind of formula for comedy in Hollywood.
He broke the glass ceiling.
He made earning a certain amount of money for black people that was not possible at that time, possible.
One of the films I did with him, called Which Way Is Up?, I designed the film around his stand-up routine.
Come on, Bob, get your ass out here. Richard played himself.
He played his father.
I heard that. Fuck you too, boy!
And he played a bootleg preacher.
What kind of lowlife dog, scoundrel, snake in the grass...
This was the first black film that ever did multiple characters.
Richard would come and say, "Come to watch this."
I come upstairs and he said, "Look!"
I look out the window, and, by the swimming pool, would be sitting famous white people - famous producers.
Dying to be allowed to come up the stairs, up to the place where we were. Do you ever go home? Yes, I do.
I'm not allowed in Peoria any more. I didn't know that.
When you make some money, Negros don't want you in town no more.
He desired to be the biggest star in entertainment.
As big as Cosby, as big as Poitier.
He also wanted to be the blackest star. You know.
As black as Malcolm X.
Bird head. Cracker.
Spear checker. White trash.
Jungle bunny. Honky.
His appearances on Saturday Night Live were very instrumental in walking the very thin line between what was acceptable on television and his mind.
Nigger. Dead honky.
My grandmother would walk by the living room and she'd say, "Are you watching that Negro again?"
It was the only black person my grandmother would allow in the house was Richard Pryor.
The audiences absolutely loved it. The network loved it.
That's why the network went after him and said, "We want you to do a television show."
We had the best time.
When you have the support of someone who carries that much weight, it trickles down to everybody to be courageous and crazy.
Mr President, Mr President. Yes.
Mr President, since you've become President, you've been courting an awful lot of white women.
Will this continue?
As long as I can keep it up.
I actually hired a court stenographer, because the ideas were...
One day he walked into the conference room, he jumped on the table and said, "Let Bojaws handle it."
We didn't know who Bojaws was.
What do you say?
Are you crippled?
Let Bojaws handle it.
Bojaws was this weird medicine man that lived in the Louisiana bayou.
Healing people. Mr Bojaws, I've got a bad arm.
I can't move it.
He's got a bad arm and he can't move it.
Let Bojaws handle it.
It was ground-breaking within the rules of how mundane television was at the time. There's a lot of things written about me.
People wondering if I'm going to have a show, if I'm not going to have a show. Well, I'm having a show.
People say, "How can you have a show? You've got to compromise.
"You've got to give up everything." Is that a joke or what?
Well, look at me! I'm standing here naked.
I've given up absolutely nothing.
So, enjoy the show.
It was pretty crazy. It was wonderful.
He was always pushing the envelope. That's when I went, wow!
That was the best thing, the start of the season. It was like, wow!
He was always between two worlds.
He was between that acceptable, sort of mainstream white world, and, of course, a much stronger, harder, knowing street place.
But the networks were so leery of him, so scared of him.
The show was supposed to air that night.
NBC censored the opening.
Called Richard at home and said, "You know we're going to edit out the naked opening.
"It caused a shit storm."
The first thing to start off going, "This is my attempt to make a statement.
If they don't air that, that really sets the rules. OK.
You're not going to let me do what I'm going to do.
Richard came back and, after pleasantries, Richard said, "Television chews you up and spits you out, and I don't want that
"to happen to me, so I've decided not to do the series."
He went to NBC, and they said Richard had to do the show.
They weren't going to let him off the hook.
From the looks of things, I'll be seeing you next time.
NBC made sure of that. I'm not going anywhere.
They kept saying, you've got to be more mainstream.
He was going, "No, fuck you. No, we can't."
If it wasn't real, fuck you.
You know what I mean? He wasn't compromising.
Rocco is the token white person on the show.
He wanted a lot of changes made.
More black people involved in production staff.
He only wanted three whities to come back.
We're in a rehearsal hall one day, and a guy walks in with an African cap, a dashiki and a stick.
I said, "Richard, who is that guy?"
He said, "His name is Prophet Jennings.
"He's a Nigger expert."
Who was the one to judge whether Richard was black enough?
Richard looked at him, and he'd either go like this or like that.
I love American people. I want to say, I had two for lunch.
In the end, they demanded that he do stand-up, which didn't sit well with him, making demands on him.
So they recorded 45 minutes of him doing stand-up.
They had ten seconds they could use.
A lot of people here might be offended.
So you should leave, because I'm going to say fuck and suck.
And shit and doo-doo.
It's amazing that he got things on that he got on, but it's only because 90% of what he wanted to get on he didn't get on that 10% of it actually got through them, because they couldn't fight with him that much.
Those bells again!
That was it. He went out swinging.
Well, good night. See you next week.
And we're delighted to have with us two of the very best friends I have who dropped by, Miss Pam Grier and Mr Richard Pryor.
Richard was dating Pam Grier. You know, she was crazy about that guy.
We bumped into each other on the set of Greased Lightning, in which we were both starring in, which will be released some time in April.
You say you bumped into each other. Yes, we bumped.
That must have been quite a collision.
I know that Richard's grandmother wanted Richard to marry Pam.
She thought she was certainly an accomplished actress.
She was black and she was a healthy girl. She wasn't a party girl.
I'll be jogging in the morning, police.
Me and Rashan, two black men, will be jogging.
We're not robbing anything.
Richard was completely sober.
He played tennis every morning at seven o'clock.
It was a Richard I had not seen.
Richard came into my office and said, "I'm getting married tomorrow."
I'll be late. I said, "Wow! Congratulations!"
That's fucking great.
# Baby, save me
# From this heart of mine... #
I had a cake this big.
Congratulations, Richard and Pam.
# I can't sleep at night It's taking over... #
My phone rings and Pam says, "You tell the son of a bitch
"I'm coming down and I'm going to kill him."
Richard Pryor had married a girl he got pregnant. And he walks in.
I start moving the cake out.
He looks at the cake and realises it's Pamela there and here's Richard with this other woman.
There was a prompt card, and it had plastic flowers on.
I shoved it in the middle of the cake, to blur out Pam and Richard.
A lot of people were surprised that Richard married Deborah, because it did come out of, sort of come out of nowhere.
There were many women in Richard's life.
I recognised and he told me this, that they wouldn't be around that long.
This is about the time I'd been married, and it was really exciting because I really am trying, I really am trying.
I'm telling you I'm fucking trying, OK?
But it's hard to wake up and see the same person all the fucking time.
Richard had, I done forgotten now. Eight, nine, 12 wives. I don't know.
But I know that all of them was what they was to him when they was.
Was once was. Richard had a pimp's mentality.
He pretends like he's controllable. He's like a spider.
That's to lure you in till you get caught in the web.
Richard had a compulsion to be married, because he didn't want to be alone.
But once he would marry, the magic would be off.
It would be gone because he won. If he wanted you, you had that power.
And usually that would just about last until he got you.
And then it would be time to go after another woman.
And that was the game with Richard.
Then the whole fun of the game was, "How do I get this bitch out of my house?"
I was the best man at a wedding with Jennifer in Hana, Maui.
And the next morning after the wedding, I was in my room, and about seven in the morning, there is a knock on the door.
I go and open the door, and there's Richard Pryor.
I said, "Richard, what are you doing here at seven in the morning?"
And he says, "I want a divorce."
No, I'd like to die like my father died.
Right, my father died fucking.
He did. My father was 57 when he died, right. The woman was 18.
My father came and went at the same time.
Would you like to introduce our next guest? Yes, who? Your grandmother.
Oh, man, don't do that.
I'm told that you run a pool hall. Yes, I do.
Did Richard spend much time in the pool hall?
Yes, he used to come down there and shoot pool after school.
They used to cuss in the pool room before she took over.
Now the language is, "Why you..."
I keep them in their place.
See, I'm an old lady and I stay in old ladies place and I respect them young men, and they must respect me, isn't that right?
That's exactly right.
APPLAUSE I remember meeting Marie Carter.
She's a grandmother that you see in books.
She had the long white hair and she was dressed very smart.
I bow to her. And this old bitch hit me in my chest so hard.
And I felt the breath leave out and before I let her hit me again, I rushed and started choking.
And he started laughing at me.
She'd laugh like it was the funniest shit she had seen.
And Richard stood to the left and he said, "That's my grandmother, man."
I was born Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor III.
I got names from pimps and gangsters.
Grew up seeing my mother go into rooms with men and my aunties go into rooms with men.
I remember tricks used to come through our neighbourhood.
That's where I first met white people.
They come down through our neighbourhood to help the economy.
Man, but I met nice white men.
"Hello, little boy, is your mother home? I'd like a blowjob."
When he told us about it, we laughed. "Get the fuck out of here.
"Your mother sucked dick?" We didn't really grasp it.
And when you realise it really happened. It wasn't jokes.
It makes us, if you didn't have that experience go, "What is that like?"
And how do you maintain love? His uncle and his daddy were pimps.
I'm talking about not no play pimps, real pimps.
Them guys would pimp a Barbie doll.
"Bitch, go out and get the money."
The grandmother was the madam in chief of the whole operation.
Basically, keep the girls in line. Keep the johns in line.
That's when I realised who she was.
In terms of this is the whole house, she runs everything.
You know, she lived in the south side in Peoria and she could sleep with the door unlocked.
People knew you're not coming up in this house.
You know if you do come up in the house, you know what's going to happen.
The grandmother was the matriarch of the family, upon whom everybody else's survival depended.
She was Richard's nurturer, the punisher, the disciplinarian.
Everything rolled into one.
My grandmother would wake my ass up, you know.
"Get your ass, put your hand up. Don't you run from me.
"Don't you run...from...me."
You were 15 years old when your first child was born? Yeah. Yeah.
How could you... It was fun. And then after she was born?
I didn't know my father was making love to her too.
And I was standing in the dining room crying.
My mother said, "What's wrong with the boy, Bucky?"
My father said, "Ain't nothing wrong with him.
"He got some girl pregnant."
I think, when you grow up around a bordello, you see people at their very core, in a way.
There's no facade, there's no masks on.
I don't know what it was that made me that way, that could laugh at anything.
Nothing was too sad, some humour could not be found in it.
His sensitivity made him so brilliant as a comedian.
But some things were so painful that he wanted to be somewhere else.
I think if you are a sensitive type that it... that you self-medicate.
It's easier to self-medicate.
I snorted cocaine for about 15 years. I must have snorted up Peru.
He'd do a line and drink some Courvoisier. That's lunch.
Go back to work.
Watching Dad doing drugs, you know, doing some lines or smoking... those were things that you didn't really question.
Listen, I was doing so much, I embarrassed cocaine dealers.
They would say, "Richard, man, God damn.
"Well, how much do you want?" "Kilo.
"Just for the weekend."
A lot of people came to the house to play cards, hang out.
For the drugs, of course, because he bought coke by the key.
Low-lifes, drug dealers, card people, hookers.
I don't like cocaine, I love it.
And that's why I have to stay away from it.
I enjoyed it for a long time.
Maybe you want to change your whole life and you swear tomorrow I'll never do this again.
Success doesn't change you.
It only magnifies who you've been all your life.
And success magnified the kid from Peoria with Richard.
But now he had endless money, endless fame.
When he would betray himself, which he did with some frequency, he thought that that betrayal belonged to everyone else.
If he was in a particularly good mood and he was being nice to everybody, he could charm anyone on the set and then he would go home that night and stew and say, "What kind of Tom am I? I'm everybody's black pal."
And the next day, he would be mean.
Richard was about 13 different personalities.
Nine of them you could deal with.
But them other four could be a motherfucker now.
Richard was very intense...
..about his personal pride. And he didn't care where it took him.
There was a huge benefit for gay pride at the Hollywood Bowl.
A lot of performers were at the Hollywood Bowl to lend their support, Richard being one of them.
Richie came on, and the audience was waiting for him.
Great applause, and he said, "You know, "I've sucked some cock myself." That was the first thing that he said.
I thought, "Uh-oh. Here we go." But the audience, of course, cheered.
And then he went on to just really go a little nuts.
They wanted to shock, because it was the truth.
And the truth defends itself. And it was quiet.
It was quiet. You could hear a rat pissing on cotton in Georgia.
I mean, it was real quiet.
Y'all can just kiss my rich, black ass.
And walked off. So...
Centre stage. Hello, everybody.
I'm terribly embarrassed and I don't know what to say about what just happened.
But I do think...
May I please finish talking? They stood up.
Booing, hissing, throwing some chairs.
It was the scariest event that I've ever been at.
Everyone in showbusiness was there.
I thought, "We're never going to hear from him again."
I got a call from David Franklin, and he said, "Ce-Ce-Cecil," cos he stuttered.
He said, "R-Richard fucked up l-last night."
So I drove over to Richard's house, and nobody was in the house.
I went out, and he was sitting by a swimming pool.
He was smoking a cigarette, and he had a scotch and an orange juice and vodka was his drink.
And I said, "Man, what happened?" He said, "Man, fuck it, man.
He said, "I just told them to kiss my ass." "But why?"
He said, "If that's the way they want me, "I don't have a career any damn way."
It wasn't Hollywood that beat him in any way.
He defeated himself with what his bad habits were.
Pryor went to court because of an incident at his home on New Year's Day.
He's been charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of felony malicious mischief.
I don't want to never see no more police in my life.
At my house.
Taking my ass to jail.
For killing my car.
I shot the motor. The motor fell out of the motherfucker.
The motor say, "Fuck it."
Then the police came.
I went into the house.
Cos they got Magnums too.
And they don't kill cars...they kill nigg-ah.
You know, Richard Pryor was always in the news.
Richard Pryor shoots his car.
Richard Pryor has a heart attack.
He ran into these tragedies one after another.
But you also knew that three months would go by or six months would go by or a year would go by, and then he was going to bring this experience back to you.
Anyone here ever had a heart attack? Them motherfuckers hurt.
I'm not bullshitting, man. I was walking in the front yard.
I was just walking along, and something said, "Don't breathe."
I said, "Huh?" "You heard me, motherfucker.
"I said, 'Don't breathe.' "
"OK, I won't breathe." "Then shut the fuck up, then." "OK.
"Don't kill me." "Get on one knee and prove it." "I'm on one knee."
"Thinking about dying now, ain't you?" "Yeah, I'm thinking about dying."
"You didn't think about it when you was eating all that pork."
We was on the road and seen Marie Carter every day while she was dying.
We'd do the shows, go check on his grandmother.
She said, "You watch out for my boy."
She was dying, and basically they said, "You have to get here now."
So we rushed there.
We went into her hospital room.
I remember she touched his camel-hair coat.
And said, "That's blue azure.
"Is it warm enough?"
And he said, "Yes, Mom, it's warm enough."
We went back to the hotel, and she died a few hours later.
Like my grandmother, Marie, used to say, "They can kill you, "but they can't eat you."
I love you, Grandmother.
Wherever you are.
She was his conduit to reality, to the world.
To everything that tethered him to earth.
And I really think that that's when he started to come apart.
Dr Al Canning came and told Richard and he said, "When you finish going through this...
"..go to Africa. You need to find out something about yourself."
MUSIC: "Stand Up" by Lee Fields and Sugarmen & Co
# Stand up
# Let's get it right
# Stand up
# Let's keep it tight. #
I went home to the motherland. I was going to find my roots.
700 million black people - not one of them motherfuckers knew me.
I looked in every phone book in Africa.
I didn't find one goddamn Pryor.
What he saw was black people who were walking around.
Everybody was professional, everybody had their own lives and purpose.
And he felt really at home on that land.
I was sitting in the hotel, and a voice said to me, he said, "Look around," said, "do you see any niggers?"
I said, "No." "You know why? Cos there aren't any."
And it made me think, "Oh, my God. I've been wrong.
I said, "I ain't going to never call another black man nigger."
He really had this epiphany that he was never going to use the word again.
When he came back, he said, "I'm not going to use that no more."
And he stuck with it.
When he went to Africa, the word had no meaning.
But on the streets of Detroit, it might be something else.
He'd tell the same joke, just take nigger out.
"Oh, he's not funny no more."
So, the punchline was nigger for y'all?
And that bothered him that some people just wouldn't elevate.
He was at such a point of a growth spurt.
And he didn't want the job.
You know, I'm a fucking artist. I do what I do. Leave me the fuck alone.
And shortly thereafter freebase was introduced.
At the time, everybody was doing cocaine.
We were snorting cocaine.
A lot changed when everybody switched from snorting cocaine to freebasing cocaine.
Somehow, everybody knew that this was a really bad thing, that turned dark.
And he found freebase.
And after two weeks of watching him get really addicted to this stuff, I moved out, because it was clear the drug had moved in and it had become his lover, his everything.
And I didn't exist any more.
Richard wasn't an addict. He was a flat-out full-blown junkie.
I mean, he might be clean for four days but be drinking booze.
Be clean for a week but just snorting a little coke.
So he was not honest with himself.
June 9th, 1980.
Richard had walked off the set of Stir Crazy a few days earlier.
The freebase had been escalating.
He was not able to stop.
Richard was so coked out that he began withdrawing large sums of money out of the bank.
And I'm talking like 500,000, 100,000, another 250,000.
He was hiding it at his house.
Rashan had called.
He was calling and recruiting several people that he felt were close enough to Richard to come to the house.
To rescue Richard to try to get Richard to stop.
Richard was in a very scary place.
Richard didn't just have a couple of ounces of cocaine.
I'm talking about a mound of cocaine on his bed.
On the bed.
And he had the pipe and the torch, and he wasn't going to put it down.
You could see that he was absolutely manic.
When I saw him, I didn't know him any more.
He looked like something had been taken from him.
You know, some spirit had been ripped out of him.
He was high. We were watching the Vietnam special.
Where they were showing the monks protest to the war.
And this particular monk took gasoline and poured it on himself and he lit it.
I said to Richard, "Look at this man's commitment."
And Richard looked at me and said, "Fuck his commitment, he didn't even flinch."
He laughed. And I went up to go to the kitchen.
On my way back to the room, a ball of fire is running towards me.
And I just jumped out of the way.
I seen it run past me, and I got up against the wall, and it run down this long hallway and then outside and then I see it outside, running.
Ball of fire.
In Richard's room before I leave, there was a fifth of 151 rum.
3/4ths of the bottle was gone.
I got a call saying that Richard was in an ambulance on the way to the Grossman Burn Centre.
I called Dr Grossman, who I knew. And I said, "This guy is my friend.
"Make sure he lives."
This is my impression of a heart talking to a brain.
HE IMPERSONATES A HEARTBEAT
What do you want?
You've been naughty.
Go to hell.
Don't make me angry, brain.
The police had just brought in a burn victim who had been running down the street.
And he was awake.
He had burns of his face, neck, chest, abdomen, back and arms.
That was like 35-40% of his body burnt.
Dr Grossman told me that based on the severe extent of those burns, there was almost no chance he would live.
I flew back to Los Angeles and went the Sherman Oaks Burn Centre where everyone else was having a vigil about Richard.
The word kept coming out.
Everybody kept saying that Richard had died.
When he got burned, all of them showed up at the hospital.
And I had to turn to a security guard.
I said, "Them bitches was about to kill people
"if you couldn't let him go to the burns centre."
I told the doctor's, "He's on Courvoisier, he's on vodka, he's on cocaine."
Cos I knew, you give him morphine, you could overdose him.
On my desk at the studio, I had a phone that Mr Wasserman, the chairman of the company, used to call me on, and nobody else used that phone.
It ran at ten o'clock one morning.
And I said, "Hello," and I heard a voice say...
HE EXHALES And I said, "Who's this?"
HE EXHALES And I realised it's Richard.
And he said...
"Am I going to die?"
And I said, "No, Richard, you're not going to die."
And then he hung up.
And I called the doctor, I said, "There's a fucking phone in Richard's room next to his bed."
And he said, "What?!"
Comedian Richard Pryor, critically burned Monday night, was sitting up in his hospital bed today and eating Cream of Wheat and talking to his doctors.
They said his chance of recovery was still only about one in three, but they were more optimistic than they were yesterday.
All day long, I've been hearing that he's improving.
Is there still a chance he would die?
I want you to understand that you have a man who still has a 50% burn on third-degree nature... who's very, very sick.
And until all of that burn tissue is taken off of his body... and covered with grafts - which will require a number of operations - he's going to be that sick.
A burn, you know, you got to let it form a scab first before, then you got to brush that off.
He was crying like a baby, rightly so.
And when that guy hit that brush and did all this here, I could see not the pain at that time but the pain in his life.
That come back.
Cos he starts talking.
"Mom, I didn't mean to do it.
"Mama, I didn't want to do it."
Everybody had said it was an accident.
He said, "No, no, I did it on purpose.
"I poured the rum on myself and lit myself on fire."
Now keep in mind he was high, so whether it was...
..an unconscious suicide attempt or a conscious suicide attempt, who knows?
But he definitely deliberately set himself on fire.
I just think he was in a pain at that moment.
And liked to smoke.
Committed, but to what, he don't know.
Junkies are just dumb.
They do dumb shit.
They set themselves on fire.
But then I'm sure he went, "What's that smell? Hey, I think that's me.
"Aargh!" And that's what he basically says he did.
It's almost like jumping off a building.
And then you lived.
You fucked up.
But you lived.
I tried to commit suicide.
That's all I want to say.
It didn't work.
Yes, it did.
You killed the old Richard Pryor?
Yeah, that person's dead.
Was a horrible man.
An executive from one of the studios called me and asked me to go see him, because he needed help.
So I flew over to Maui, and he came out to greet me.
I could see the burns all over him.
And I was kind of taken aback.
And I remember he looked down, he said, "Don't worry, my junk is OK.
"I still got my junk."
I thought, "OK!" And I shook his hand, and we started talking.
And I learned that he was dead broke, owned money to the IRS.
And he thought his career was over.
What we discovered was there was a lot of inconsistencies, financial inconsistencies.
Richard suspected that David Franklin and his lawyers were cheating him.
People came in and they uncovered a lot of these business dealings that were crooked.
Richard sued David Franklin.
And got a million dollars back, but the most important thing to Richard was getting David to apologise to him.
That was more important to Richard than the million dollars.
I had to figure out where he was financially, and he owed a lot of money to a lot of people, and I came up with an idea for him to do a concert movie.
He was really needing to heal.
And the lawyer said to him, "You got to get back on that horse now, "it's your time. If you don't it now, you're never going to do it.
"They're going to forget you."
The worst thing Richard could have done was come back.
He wanted to go back to work.
You got to understand something, you don't make Richard Pryor do anything.
Richard Pryor has to WANT to do whatever he's doing.
I'm going to see Richard Pryor!
He better be funny!
Tell Richard he better be funny.
The who's who of Hollywood, they filled the theatre up at the Palladium.
Then Richard got on stage.
And it was the worst show I've ever seen him do.
Where was I?
I was here - what's the date?
This camera's looking at me.
MAN: You're doing fine! Thank you, brother, I needed to hear that.
APPLAUSE He started doing his act backwards.
And he got confused.
It was rough, and you just knew it wasn't going to be OK.
The Lord doesn't want me to smoke it.
MAN: Burn it up. Burn it up.
Richard didn't feel it was a perfect fit.
The audience didn't think it was.
Let me say this to you, this is honest, this shit didn't work.
For me, I mean...
I know y'all laugh at something.... I feel...
I wanted it to be something else that it's not, it's just not there.
It's just there right at this moment in time and space, for me.
And I hope that nobody feels cheated or nothing, cos at least you're getting to see a motherfucker crucify himself.
He was supposed to do 90 minutes, he did about an hour.
And walked out.
AUDIENCE MURMURS SCATTERED APPLAUSE I thought there was going to be a riot.
Of course I was concerned, but I also know Richard.
And I knew how resilient he was.
And I knew that he'd come back.
The next day, same show, place.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE He was so upset and he told all the people that, "I'm going to do it all over for you again, "cos I messed the first one up."
He was going back on stage again.
He would be accepted or rejected.
Embraced or pushed aside.
There was something within him that said, "Go forward."
The show was flawless.
All my friends know this to be true, cos everybody knows me, I usually, before I go to bed, I have milk and cookies.
And one night, I had some low-fat milk... and some pasteurised, and I mixed them together... and I dipped my cookie, and the shit blew up.
The audience went nuts.
I mean, I think the laughter was at least 15 minutes.
I'll tell you one thing, when that fire hits your ass... that will sober your ass up quick.
I mean, I was standing there on fire, and someone said, "Why that's a pretty blue.
"You know what?
"That looks like...FIRE!"
And you know something I found out?
When you're on fire and running down the street, people will get out of your way.
Except for one old drunk who's going, "Hey, buddy, can I get a light?"
His latest performance, Live On The Sunset Strip, made his runaway with the top box office spot.
Made 8 million in three days.
Would you welcome Richard Pryor?
Pryor's firm, headed by long-time friend Jim Brown, entered into a 40 million, five-year deal with Columbia Pictures.
Richard wanted very badly to elevate the status of African-Americans.
Indigo was going to be the first time that a black person had a 40 million deal with a major studio.
And so we were going to do films, we were going to do this, do that, we were going to change the industry.
This was going to be it.
The phone rang, and he said, "It's Richard. What are you doing?"
I said, "I'm about to go to the bathroom."
He said, "After you take a shit, come over to Columbia."
Richard Pryor is getting ready to prepare for his role in Jo Jo Dancer. It's a movie written by himself, based loosely on incidents from his own life.
He was an actor and a producer and a director, so Richard became a role model.
He hired Jim Brown to run the company for him.
I think he made a decision to have somebody tough, but not somebody who really knew the film business side of it.
I brought him the Prince movie, Purple Rain.
And he said, "Great." And then Jim Brown didn't want to do the movie, because there wasn't an all-black crew.
They kind of let a lot of mistakes happen.
Think that was part of the reason why that company didn't take off.
It was a huge disappointment for black filmmakers.
He really wanted to be who he was. He wanted to be an artist.
And it was too much pressure.
Richard began this tragic role where whites came in and just gave him white scripts.
And that's what did him in.
I think he appeared in a movie where he was this kid's toy.
His career, as far as we were concerned, went downhill.
I'm doing a film called Moving for Warner Brothers.
What's it about? About two hours too long.
Eddie wrote, produced, was directing Harlem Nights.
But Richard thought he should have first credit, not Eddie, and Eddie was a much bigger star at that time than Richard.
It was finished then.
The whole thing had been untethered so long and it never got back.
Went to The Comedy Store. Richard wasn't there.
So I looked at everybody and said, "Where's Richard?"
I ran upstairs.
And this comedian...
..had Richard against a wall with the cocaine... spoon, holding it to Richard's nose.
I went fucking berserk.
And I put him up against the wall, and his feet were off the floor.
And I'm choking him and yelling at Richard, "Da fuck is wrong with you?!"
I went to see him, and he was back on drugs.
And I could see he was high.
And I said, "Richard...
"this doesn't work for me.
"I'm not going to stand by like everybody did with John Belushi, "let you do drugs."
So I said, "You and I are done unless you go into rehab."
And then he sent me a letter firing me and accusing me of this and this and saying I hadn't done this and I hadn't done that, all which was a bunch of nonsense.
And he was going back... to a dark place where he couldn't... I didn't think would come back from.
He kind of tried drying out for a while and he said, he said he was too afraid to go on stage, he was too vulnerable.
He was really raw.
It looked like...unlike the fire, this time he gave up.
You just watched him begin to deteriorate in front of you.
I felt really bad... that, uh...
..that he was going down to where I basically tried to help take him out of. I mean...
I wanted him to have a good life.
I felt...I felt bad for him. Not for me.
I think it was very self-destructive on Richard's part.
I think that was a real meaningful relationship.
A relationship of substance, I should say.
That had real connection and real affection.
And somebody really was watching out for him.
There weren't a lot of those people.
And sometimes... your best isn't good enough.
And you can't... save them from themselves.
I remember I hadn't seen him for a while.
And I went to some premiere of something.
And he walked up on me and he had lost so much weight that I really didn't recognise him.
And then it hit me. I said, "My God, that's Richard."
I lost 20 pounds to do a film and I kept losing, I couldn't get it back, you know?
I got real scared, Johnny, you know cos I was losing weight, and my pants were falling down, and I said, "Something's wrong."
I said, "All these diseases around, Richard, "finally it's caught up with you.
"And you have one of them.
"And you're going to die."
So I was very calm about it, you know, but I'm going to die.
A few months ago, I was on The Tonight Show and I was talking to Johnny Carson.
And then the next day, this lady from the newspaper called one of my ex-wives and said, "What do you think's wrong with Richard?"
She said, "I think he has AIDS."
Guaranteeing that I would not get no pussy until the year 2025.
One day, he called. I said, "What's the matter?"
He said, "I got something wrong with my eyes, I can't see straight."
I said, "OK, come over to the hospital, "and I'll get my ophthalmologist." They look at him.
The intensivist doctor, neurologist.
And both of them said, "He may have MS."
When we was doing Harlem Nights, I remember saying to Richie, he was getting ready to go do a scene, he had a Bic lighter in his hand. And I said to him, "This is a period piece, they didn't have Bics back then."
Said he keeps a lighter in his hand to disguise his fist balling up and what was going on with him.
And that's when he let me know he had the MS.
Yeah, back in those days, we never thought it would turn out like that.
People that have it know what I mean.
The shit fucks with your nervous system.
When the doctor tells you you've got it, and then you go, "Oh, I got it?
"What is it?"
I'd never heard a doctor say "Uhhh," before.
It's a blessing, though.
When you can't walk and then you have to depend on others to help you...
..you have to learn to trust them.
Which is very hard for me.
Jennifer came out to handle his affairs when he was unable, with the MS, to do that much for himself.
I came back in '94. The party was over.
No more cocaine.
That craziness was all gone.
Let's put it behind us and make some lemonade out of the lemons.
The drug part of it was over. He was clean from that point on.
He had really learned whatever it was to be learned from the MS.
It was difficult to visit Richard when he was sick, after knowing him as such a wiry, vital, athletic type, you know, moving around and never being, you know, to all of a sudden seeing him a wheelchair.
My dick is dead.
No, it died in my hand.
I had it in my hand, would beat it... and the dick looked at me like I was crazy.
"What the fuck's wrong with you?"
"It's not me, it's you, motherfucker."
Even when he got sick, I mean, him wanting to be on stage in his declining years, was, to me, so heroic.
Warren Beatty's limousine would show up.
This make me cry thinking about it.
And he'd be sitting there looking out at Richard and he'd be crying, because... because he knew what a great genius Richard was.
Richard Pryor defined the game of stand-up comedy and comedy itself.
And if you haven't stole from Richard, then you're probably not that funny.
And I wanted to tell him that I wanted to be just like him, except for the drug habit and failed marriages and the temper and the guns.
As much as people felt bad for him, that man probably had some nights and some days...
I mean, it'd take a lifetime to top that motherfucker's week.
The last time I saw him, he was... wheelchair-bound and unable to speak. Jennifer took me to see him.
He couldn't talk.
All I could do was, you know, give him a kiss and tell him, "I still love you, Richard."
Richard Pryor died this afternoon of a heart attack at his home in California. He was 65.
APPLAUSE So...what I'm saying, what the point I'm trying to make is, that there is no point to be made.
That's all there is.
There ain't no point to it, cos you didn't ask to come to this motherfucker and you sure can't choose how to leave.
Cos you don't know when you're going to go.
Don't take this shit sad.
You better have some fun and plenty of it.
Cos when the shit over and you ask for a recharge, it's too late.
So all I can say is keep some sunshine on your face.
Even till the end, Richard never did know how good he was.
Most people did not understand that.
I never heard him said, "I never knocked them off their ass tonight."
He always said, "I'll get them tomorrow."
As the song says, we get back up again because of boundless mercy.
And that you are a champion, Richard, you are a champion.
And the ground's no place for a champion.
So we rise, get up, go back and do your work.
They've always been there for Richard.
He's always there for them.
Richard belongs to us.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I'd like for people... to see my picture and laugh.
Just see your picture? Yeah.
And laugh and have stories and tell... tell some lies on me.
"He made me laugh. I was there, you know?
"I was there Wednesday when he drove up in the..." You know, whatever.
Like that. Like...bring joy.
That's how I'd like to be remembered.