Becoming Richard Pryor

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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 Drawing upon a mountain of original research—interviews with family and friends, court transcripts, unpublished journals, screenplay drafts—Scott Saul traces Pryor’s rough journey to the heights of fame: from his heartbreaking childhood, his trials in the Army, and his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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About the author

Scott Saul is a professor of English at the University of California–Berkeley. His writing has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times, and The Nation, among other publications. He is the author of Freedom Is, Freedom Ain’t: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Harper Collins
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Published on
Dec 9, 2014
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Pages
608
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ISBN
9780062123336
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Entertainment & Performing Arts
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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“Addictively readable . . . Someday, when fewer people know Richard Pryor’s name, Furious Cool will be the best defense against the worst sort of forgetting--the kind that involves who we are now, who we loved once, and why.” —Esquire

Richard Pryor was arguably the single most influential performer of the second half of the twentieth century, and certainly he was the most successful black actor/comedian ever. Controversial and somewhat enigmatic during his life, Pryor’s performances opened up a whole new world of possibilities, merging fantasy with angry reality in a way that wasn’t just new--it was theretofore unthinkable. Now, this groundbreaking and revelatory work brings him to life again both as a man and as an artist, providing an in-depth appreciation of his talent and his lasting influence, as well as an insightful examination of the world he lived in and the myriad influences that shaped both his persona and his art.

“A testament to [Pryor’s] stature not only as an African-American entertainment idol but also as an American icon . . . The Henrys’ exuberant tribute may well evoke renewed interest in a performance genius who remade the face of American stand-up comedy.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A sleek, highly literate biography that places the comic in the pop-cultural context of his times.” —Bloomberg News

“Richard Pryor was the most free black man of the twentieth century. He also was a comic genius. This book gives the definitive reasons why he was so free and so sublime.” —Dr. Cornel West

“David Henry and Joe Henry have brought Richard Pryor back to pulsating life, affirming both his humanity and his immortality as a comic--and tragic--genius . . . Furious Cool is a fabulous history, alive with fascinating characters.”
—The Huffington Post

This eBook includes the full text of the book plus an exclusive additional chapter from Chip and Joanna that is not found in the hardcover!

Are you ready to see your fixer upper?

These famous words are now synonymous with the dynamic husband-and-wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper. As this question fills the airwaves with anticipation, their legions of fans continue to multiply and ask a different series of questions, like—Who are these people?What’s the secret to their success? And is Chip actually that funny in real life? By renovating homes in Waco, Texas, and changing lives in such a winsome and engaging way, Chip and Joanna have become more than just the stars of Fixer Upper, they have become America’s new best friends.

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They both attended Baylor University in Waco. However, their paths did not cross until Chip checked his car into the local Firestone tire shop where Joanna worked behind the counter. Even back then Chip was a serial entrepreneur who, among other things, ran a lawn care company, sold fireworks, and flipped houses. Soon they were married and living in their first fixer upper. Four children and countless renovations later, Joanna garners the attention of a television producer who notices her work on a blog one day.

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The time Chip ran to the grocery store and forgot to take their new, sleeping babyJoanna’s agonizing decision to close her dream business to focus on raising their childrenWhen Chip buys a houseboat, sight-unseen, and it turns out to be a leaky wreckJoanna’s breakthrough moment of discovering the secret to creating a beautiful homeHarrowing stories of the financial ups and downs as an entrepreneurial coupleMemories and photos from Chip and Jo’s weddingThe significance of the word magnolia and why it permeates everything they doThe way the couple pays the popularity of Fixer Upper forward, sharing the success with others, and bolstering the city of Waco along the way

And yet there is still one lingering question for fans of the show: Is Chip really that funny? “Oh yeah,” says Joanna. “He was, and still is, my first fixer upper.”

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