Scott Saul Becoming Richard Pryor

ISBN 13: 9780062123305

Becoming Richard Pryor

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9780062123305: Becoming Richard Pryor

A major biography—intimate, gripping, revelatory—of an artist who revolutionized American comedy.

Richard Pryor may have been the most unlikely star in Hollywood history. Raised in his family’s brothels, he grew up an outsider to privilege. He took to the stage, originally, to escape the hard-bitten realities of his childhood, but later came to a reverberating discovery: that by plunging into the depths of his experience, he could make stand-up comedy as exhilarating and harrowing as the life he’d known. He brought that trembling vitality to Hollywood, where his movie career—Blazing Saddles, the buddy comedies with Gene Wilder, Blue Collar—flowed directly out of his spirit of creative improvisation. The major studios considered him dangerous. Audiences felt plugged directly into the socket of life.

Becoming Richard Pryor brings the man and his comic genius into focus as never before. Drawing upon a mountain of original research—interviews with family and friends, court transcripts, unpublished journals, screenplay drafts—Scott Saul traces Pryor’s rough journey to the heights of fame: from his heartbreaking childhood, his trials in the Army, and his apprentice days in Greenwich Village to his soul-searching interlude in Berkeley and his ascent in the “New Hollywood” of the 1970s.

Becoming Richard Pryor illuminates an entertainer who, by bringing together the spirits of the black freedom movement and the counterculture, forever altered the DNA of American comedy. It reveals that, while Pryor made himself a legend with his own account of his life onstage, the full truth of that life is more bracing still.

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Review:

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, December 2014: In Becoming Richard Pryor, author Scott Saul quotes Pryor as saying, “It’s so much easier for me to talk about my life in front of two thousand people than it is one-on-one.” But on stage we only get part of the picture—and it’s in reading Saul’s well-researched and comprehensive biography that one begins to realize exactly what went into creating arguably the greatest comedian ever. Starting with his family’s origins in Peoria, Illinois—where several generations were marked by domestic violence, petty crime, and the ins and outs of running brothels—Saul traces Pryor’s early days in Greenwich Village, his inner explorations in Berkeley, and the rise of his star in Hollywood. It certainly wasn’t pretty; but it’s spellbinding at times. Particularly effective is Saul’s effort to get into Pryor’s head, which rings with authenticity and truth. – Chris Schluep

From the Back Cover:

Becoming Richard Pryor is a book that breaks new ground. . . . Saul details the amazing way that Richard found his way out of the life for which he seemed destined and into the world of the performing arts.”—New York Times

Richard Pryor may have been the most unlikely star in Hollywood history. Raised in his family’s brothels, in Peoria, Illinois, by a grandmother who often threatened to kick him upstairs with her size-twelve shoes, he always considered himself a bottom dog. He took to the stage originally to escape the tough realities of his childhood but later discovered he could alchemize his stand-up by delving fully, even painfully, into the “off-color” life he’d known. He brought that vitality to a movie career whose best moments—Blazing Saddles, Blue Collar, the buddy comedies with Gene Wilder—flowed directly out of his spirit of creative improvisation. The major studios considered him dangerous. Audiences felt plugged directly into the socket of life.

Built on groundbreaking research, Becoming Richard Pryor brings into sharp focus the man and his genius as never before. From his heartbreaking childhood, his trials in the army, and his improv days in Greenwich Village to his soul-searching interlude in Berkeley and his rise in the “New Hollywood” of the 1970s, Becoming Richard Pryor sheds light on an entertainer who, by uniting the spirits of the Black Power movement and the counterculture, forever altered the cultural DNA of America.

“A fascinating, exhilarating read.” —Michael Chabon

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