Furious Cool : Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him

Furious Cool : Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him

Book - 2013
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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 in his lifetime, Pryor's performances opened up a new world of possibilities, merging fantasy with angry reality in a way that wasn't just new--it was heretofore unthinkable. His childhood in Peoria, Illinois, was spent just trying to survive. Yet the culture into which Richard Pryor was born--his mother was a prostitute; his grandmother ran the whorehouse--helped him evolve into one of the most innovative and outspoken performers ever, a man who attracted admiration and anger in equal parts. Both a brilliant comedian and a very astute judge of what he could get away with, Pryor was always pushing the envelope, combining anger and pathos, outrage and humor, into an art form, laying the groundwork for the generations of comedians who followed, including such outstanding performers as Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. Now, in this groundbreaking and revelatory work, Joe and David Henry bring him to life 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 influences that shaped both his persona and his art.
Publisher: Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, [2013]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781616200787
Branch Call Number: 792.7028 PRYOR HENRY
Characteristics: xx, 297 pages ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Henry, Joe


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Jul 16, 2017

The authors are sometimes appealing with their honest affection for Richard Pryor, which they express with energy. Another strong point of Furious Cool is the attention to Pryor influences such as Dick Gregory, a barrier breaker for African American comedy since the 1950s.

Overall, however, the book is disappointing. The Henrys try spicing up (and splicing up) their narrative of Pryor by working various angles and techniques, such as fictionalized interludes that are meant to take us into Pryor's psychology and experience. In terms of style, the book has more than one, with the Henrys exhibiting influence of Tom Wolfe, Nick Tosches, et al.

Some of their experiments work, most don't. When the authors admit, early in one of their chapters, that they avoided or refused to watch several of Pryor's movies post-1985, they earn marks for accountability. Their case for not viewing this material is weak, however, and the Henrys end up looking timid and a little lazy.

With more commitment to a discipined structure and to consistent quality in choice of subject matter and prose, Furious Cool would have a chance at being an important, even indispensable book. After all, the Henrys devoted a large portion of their professional lives and personal passion to a movie script on Pryor, only to see that collapse. Furious Cool is what they salvaged. Even though the book is worthwhile for its primary source material that the Henrys gathered in personal meetings with Richard Pryor late in his life, it never comes close to taking the stage with confidence and clarity, as Pryor did, at his best and often.

Jun 22, 2014

kind of a strange book. This biography quotes RP's own autobiography! Other times lines are quoted directly from one of his 1971 stand up comedy routines. (I saw it on youtube!) It's a sad story - horrible childhood growing up in an actual whorehouse. As an adult he was a brilliant comedian but constantly using drugs. The way he treated women was horrible (beating them constantly and abandoning them as soon as they got pregnant). Then he got MS and died. Also I found the racism to be so strange. I never knew that things were so bad as recently as the 1970s and 1980s. This book also contains a tonne of swearing and sexual language.

Dec 27, 2013

After the first few chapters of Richard Pryor's life story, the rest of his story makes perfect sense. There is a lot of tragedy, way more than there was ever any comedy in his life; one wonders how he found the ability to laugh at anything, actually. This book is a more intense read than I thought it would be; more interesting, maybe, to sociologists rather than to people who were Pryor fans or people looking to follow Pryor's footsteps (I am sure no one would want to, even if they could.) A sad, confusing story about a sad and confused man.


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Jun 22, 2014

smichal thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Dec 27, 2013

DellaV thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 17 and 99


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