“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
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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