Comedy, drama, and improvisation create a great form of entertainment. There are some who are so powerful and talented in the realm of these genres that they leave a lasting mark on those who have had to the opportunity to see their work and possibly know them. In Becoming Richard Pryor by Scott Saul, we follow the life and times of Richard Pryor from his childhood forward.
A man, a legend, a beleaguered and talented personality ahead of his time, and always on display in some form or other. Pryor did not come from privilege, and, in fact, was raised in his family’s various brothels. Even outside the norm, the family had a strong bond, to which Richard clung. An outcast as a youngster, he found his calling early in drama and comedy, the one thing that helped him to pretend he was someone else.
As he grew and continued learning his trade, he did what he could to get strong and better, often using his own harrowing background to dredge up and poke fun at those things that he most feared. With his raucous comedy and on to his acting he became a voice in a generation looking for what he had to offer. Yet never one to be stationary, Pryor continued to evolve; even when he was burning himself out with drugs, he was able to move forward and stay in the limelight.
Reading Saul’s biography, you will find the story of his life and his climb to fame remarkable. The strength of will to overcome the disbelievers and the make his mark, not just doing standup, but in his through his skill as an actor and writer (he wrote much of his own dialogue for such successful comedies as Blazing Saddles and Blue Collar). It was at this time he became friends with Gene Wilder, another rising star.
As a Black entertainer, Pryor helped to galvanize the spirit of the black freedom movement and counterculture, thereby solidifying his legend. A product of his times, he was a part of the drug culture as well as the sexual revolution, and with his burning passion these actions too, become a part of the whole, driving him further into an inferno of fame. To read this account of a comedy legend who came from obscurity to stardom, only to disappear again into obscurity, leave you aching with the pain of his passing.
Even now there are many who stylize themselves after Richard Pryor; he set the standard in ways that will forever remain. There is so much we take for granted of those who grace our lives with comedy and drama, it is the unknown tales that tie it all together, and Scott Saul has done just that.
If you enjoy biographical works, and are a fan of Richard Pryor, or even just enjoy learning about those who have lived before us, you will be intrigued by this book, and become immersed in a life of love, laughter and pain. A great deal of pain.
This would be a great book for a book club or reading group. The amazing growth of a star through the culture of the times will surely spark some great discussion![amazon asin=B00HYM960C&template=iframe image]