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Born in Peoria, Illinois, on December 1st, 1940, Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor Sr.—known in show business as Richard Pryor— was an actor and stand-up comedian, with a career that spanned over thirty years. He began to perform as a comedian in clubs in 1963, at first in the Midwest, later in New York City. Pryor’s television debut was on the variety show On Broadway Tonight in 1964. This was followed by appearances on programs such as The Merv Griffin Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Ed Sullivan Show. Thanks to his rising popularity, Richard found success as a comic in Las Vegas around 1966. Pryor’s self-titled debut album, a live recording of one of his shows at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, California, was released in 1968. It would be the first of twenty more albums over the course of his professional life.

Pryor’s first film role was in 1967’s The Busy Body, and a year later appeared in Wild in the Streets (1968.) During the 1970’s, after moving to California, he began to make more film appearances, and was a writer for various shows, including The Lily Tomlin Show and Lily (which earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing.) Notable film credits of this decade are Lady Sings the Blues (1972,) The Mack (1973,) Car Wash (1976,) Which Way Is Up? (1977,) Greased Lightning (1977,) Blue Collar (1978,) and The Muppet Movie (1979.) By the end of the ‘70s, Pryor had released several more records. His 1974’s That Nigger’s Crazy was a critical and commercial success, earning him a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. Subsequent albums …Is It Something I Said? (1975) and Bicentennial Nigger (1976) quickly followed its predecessor’s success. In 1977, Pryor starred in his very own variety show, The Richard Pryor Show, on NBC, but only lasted for four episodes, due to the controversial nature of Pryor’s signature comic material.

At the height of his career, Pryor continued to release best-selling records and appear in movies, not only as an actor, but also as producer and writer. He became the highest-paid black actor when he was cast in 1980’s Stir Crazy. Pryor also starred in Bustin’ Loose (1981,) Some Kind of Hero (1982,) The Toy (1982,)    Superman III (1983,) Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986,) Critical Condition (1987,) See No Evil, Hear No Evil     (1989,) and Harlem Nights (1989.) Aside from his albums, he also did two stand-up comedy films, Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip and Richard Pryor: Here and Now, between 1982 and 1983.

Richard’s last film credits were The Three Muscatels (1991,) Mad Dog Time (1996,) and Lost Highway (1997.) By then, he had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and was having a hard time moving around. On TV, Pryor guest starred on Chicago Hope, Malcolm & Eddie and The Norm Show, which marked his final television appearance. In 2000, a remastered version of Pryor’s previous works was released in the box set ...And It’s Deep Too! The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968–1992.) His last album was a CD compilation of his recovered earlier work, under the name Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years (1966–1974) (2005.) After a series of health complications, Richard Pryor passed away on December 10th, 2005, due to a heart attack, in Los Angeles, California. To this day, he is regarded as one of the best and most influential stand-up comedians of all time.

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