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Pryor Convictions: and Other Life Sentences Paperback – August 26, 1997

40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

At the height of his career, Richard Pryor did something no other comedian had done up to that point: he took listeners deeply into his life, baring himself before audiences as he exposed his foibles and his follies, his tumultuous dealings with women and his misadventures with drugs. "People can't always handle it," he writes in Pryor Convictions. "But I knew that if you tell the truth, it's going to be funny." The pain and truth came from Pryor's earliest years--from his childhood in Peoria, Illinois, where he was raised in bars and whorehouses, and sexually assaulted by an older boy when he was just 6 years old. After a stint in the army, Pryor set out to become an entertainer and began making the slow climb from hole-in-the-wall nightclubs to stardom. Sometimes profane, but always funny, Pryor Convictions is a no-holds-barred autobiography told in Pryor's inimitable comic voice.

From Publishers Weekly

Profane, profound and poignant, this memoir manages to transfer much of Pryor's comic genius to the page. Aided by Gold, People magazine's Los Angeles deputy bureau chief, Pryor juxtaposes his reflections with italicized comic bits that show how he-and characters like the seen-it-all Mudbone-transmute life into comedy. Pryor grew up among whorehouses and nightclubs in Peoria, Ill., a perfect perch from which to observe racism and hypocrisy. Driven to the stage by "pain and insecurity," Pryor soon overindulged in drugs and women. But it took him years to evolve on stage from a colorless Cosby clone to a bard of the ghetto. Pryor's volatile personal life-as well as Hollywood's racism, he alleges-hindered his movie career, but he built a rich body of work on television, in concert films and on stage. His story careens between topics and episodes, including his abusive relationship with women (six marriages to date), his epiphanies in Africa and his notorious self-immolation while freebasing cocaine. Now, as Pryor fights multiple sclerosis, he reflects proudly on his work and vows he has much more to do. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (August 26, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037570048X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700484
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,036,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on March 1, 2003
Format: Audio Cassette
In chapter 20 of this book Richard Pryor offhandedly calls his comedy style "profane and profound" and inadvertently sums up his life and this book perfectly. This is at various times the most dirtyminded, hilarious, shocking, or downright disturbing autobiography you may ever read, but always with his great dark humor. With a bizarre and damaging childhood in Peoria, Richard Pryor was raised in his grandmother's place of business - which happened to be a whorehouse with all of its shady and unwholesome characters. A violent and painful childhood full of profanity and prejudice came out in Richard's comedy, which was truly groundbreaking in its shocking honesty. He lived a wild life in the spotlight, with addictions and a constant parade of rough women, including five wives that he divorced six times. The wives are hard to keep track of, but Richard is always brutally honest about his attitudes toward women even if it's rarely pretty. He also has a very refreshing outlook on racial matters, as the prejudice that was so damaging failed to ruin his respect for all people of any color. Most of the tail end of the book concerns his nearly born again soul searching about his infamous addictions and latest losing battle with multiple sclerosis. In addition to Richard's straightforward and unforgiving narratives, there are very frequent asides from one of his stage characters, Mudbone, who here is acting as his even more brutally honest alter ego. This gives the book an often jarring schizophrenic character, and surely reflects the true workings of Pryor's dark genius.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Blackworm on June 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
PRYOR CONVICTIONS made have changed the names to protect the innocent, but the story that unfolded made up for it. Richard Pryor's life has been a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, starting with his childhood, his molestation and rearing in a brothel to his complicated teens and young adulthood, when he felt he needed everyone's approval to live his life. Even as he reached maturity, he still felt he needed to belong to someone and needed to believe in something. It is this pyschological imbalance that drives him to drugs, numerous wives, and even more sexual conquests, but, in the end, he still felt alone and lost. He found out that the only need he couldn't live without was the need to be himself and the power to love who he is. Very candid and explicit, this is the real Richard Pryor, and, for better or worse, this is his story.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By derrick Bogan on September 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This has to be one of the most honest and compelling autobiographies I ever read! I have an immense amount of respect for the intimate details that Rich felt comfortable with sharing with readers about his early life and personal problems. Though some parts dealt with painful issues, the comedic genius he is, he manages to have readers smiling through tears. I found it particularly painful to read his battle with MS, which I watched my mother suffer with, but again, the humor is always there. Richard Pryor is the epitomy of a survivor, not to mention one of the most talented comedians of our time. This was a very inspirational and enjoyable read and I recommend the purchase A.S.A.P.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on May 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
The mystery of how Richard Franklin Lenox Thomas Pryor III survived and became wildly successful after growing up in a family that made its living by running a prostitution business, in which all of the adult members were participants; being molested by a Catholic Priest at a school that eventually expelled him; becoming a school drop out at the age of fourteen, running through six wives, and a cocaine habit big enough to purchase a hospital in Peru, set himself on fire while free-basing cocaine, having a heart attack, multiple sclerosis, and then bilked out of millions by a dishonest agent, is truly a story worth reading.

This book is Richard Pryor's autobiography told with some of his best jokes serving as punctuation marks. And as was true of his life, this book is as much pathos as it is comedy, and clearly intended to be both.

But here, perhaps for the first time, in its subtext, Pryor reveals the true strength of his character and his humanity: it is in his uncompromising ability not to accept the racist reality that he found himself engulfed in, at face value. To Pryor not only was the racist reality "not real" and thus not to be trusted, it also was not universal, not legitimate, nor the last word about the humanity of his own private life and environment, or by extension, of this nation.

Even though the racist reality of Peoria, Illinois, tried to set limits for Pryor, he kept finding ways to jump over its hurdles. Until his death, with every fiber of his body, Pryor fought everyday of his life against allowing it to define who he was. In doing so, like his hero, Muhammad Ali, he transcended it and America's brutally racist system, and in the process, became larger than life, and larger than his own tragic circumstances.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 6, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book, although not recommended for the younger or more sensitive types, tells everything there is to know about Richard Pryor. This book does not set out to make him look like a great man, nor does it set out to make him look like a horrid monster, it presents his choices, good or bad, and allows the reader to draw whatever conclusions he/she wants.
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