Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him

by David Henry, Joe Henry

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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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616202712
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 11/05/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 51,918
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

David Henry is a screenwriter, and his brother Joe Henry is a songwriter/singer as well as a music producer. Furious Cool is their first book. They are also at work on a screenplay based on Pryor’s life and career. 

Table of Contents

Prelude xiii

Introduction: The Fear of Black Laughter xv

Part 1

A Native Son of Wistful Vista 3

"There's a Bad Muthafucka Comin' Your Way" 22

Backing Up While Swimming 30

"Ain't That Many of Us to Go Around" 40

Part 2

"Give Me Some Milk or Else Go Home" 51

A Way Out of Here Other Than That Door 72

Monday, December 22, 1969 95

Part 3

There's a Riot Goin' On 107

The Word Made Flesh 118

A Screaming Comes across the Sky 126

"Nigger, Come Out of That Black Skin and Be Black, Nigger" 132

"Let It Stay Heavy if Not Hard" 145

Part 4

"I See That Man in My Mind and Go with Him" 161

"There's a Person Here That's Possessed" 176

"Let's Get Him before Somebody Else Does" 187

Surrender, Richard 198

"You Hollywood Faggots Can Kiss My Rich Happy Black Ass" 207

"Does It Look Like I'm Smiling to You, Motherfucker?" 211

"When You Get off That Stage, There's a Loneliness That Comes over You" 217

"My Mind's Thinking About Shit I Don't Want to Be Thinkin' About" 226

Part 5

"The Part of Me That Wanted to Die Did" 239

Is Comedy Stand-Up Poetry? 247

"I Guess That's a Smile. I Hope That's His Face" 249

"I'm Finding It Hard Imitating Richard Pryor" 259

The Last Temptation of Richard 264

Epilogue: Going to Meet the Man 277

Joe's Postscript 279

Acknowledgments 283

Sources 285

What People are Saying About This

author of "Let the Great World Spin" Colum McCann

“Richard Pryor was chain lightning to everything around him. He shocked the world through with human electricity. He blew all our comfortable balance to hell. And Furious Cool captures it brilliantly . . . Part memoir, part biography, part poem, part history, part ballad, it manages to sing a wakesong for an incredible American.”

Gloria Steinem

“Richard Pryor lives again in the pages of Furious Cool by David and Joe Henry. With heart and grace and witnessing, they show us how and why this comic and tragic genius changed the culture of this country when he could not change himself. You may be meeting or rediscovering Pryor, but he’s likely to change you, too.”

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Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
JiffyPopYumYum More than 1 year ago
An absolutely brilliant look into the life and career of comic great Richard Pryor!
arlenadean More than 1 year ago
Title: Richard Pryor And The World That Made Him Author: David Henry and Joe Henry Publisher: Algonquin Books Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Rating: 4 Review: "Richard Pryor And The World That Made Him" by David Henry & Joe Henry Book Description.... "No one who saw Richard Pryor alone on stage with nothing but a microphone in his hand could have doubted that here was a man possessed of genius. But few have any sense of the strange, violent, and colorful landscape from which he emerged. His childhood in Peoria, Illinois, was spent just trying to survive. Yet the culture into which he was born—his mother was a prostitute; his grandmother ran the whorehouse—helped shaped him into one of the most influential and outstanding performers of our time. Pryor attracted admiration and anger in equal parts. He was a comedian who many consider the greatest ever, yet his triumphant stand-up work has been largely eclipsed by his mediocre movie output. His personal life was likewise something of a contradiction, because Pryor was a man of deep intelligence and sensitivity yet was also someone who could never seem to make the pieces of his life come together to create a whole. His was a fascinating, larger-than-life personality; he was as pivotal and essential a figure as Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, or Muhammad Ali. Pryor the solo artist brought to a pop-obsessed generation the news that they had a past with deep roots that spoke to our shared humanity. Through David and Joe Henry, Richard Pryor speaks to us still." What I like about this novel..... I found this novel very interesting. Yes, I was one who watch some of Mr.. Pryor's movies. I especially love watching with my sons the one called 'Moving.' I never laughed so hard in my life...oh well let's get to my thoughts on the novel where after reading this novel I found is story rather a sad one. The authors however did give the reader a well written script of Mr. Pryor's life that gives a thoughtful look at this person, his relationships, his work and his internal struggles. Yes, even with all that was on Mr. Pryor was one of the greatest stand up artist. I thought the read was good and very informative read of Mr. Pryor, who was a 'standup comedy, pop and social cultures during the years of 1960 and 70's, and historian of those turbulent decades.' If you are a fan of Mr. Pryor, this read would be of interest to you and I would definitely recommend this to you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Using different parameters on what stuff great comedians or entertainers are made of, Richard Pryor comes out as my best, most cryptic and most natural comedian of them all. The author did a good job of bringing out his best and his worst, his creative ingenuity and his self-destructive side, as well as so many of the inner contradictions that haunt variously gifted people. Identifying traits or characters of him in other people in real life or in fiction helped me to understand him better. Like in some of the characters in The Usurper and Other Stories, he lived his life obeying his instincts, never reining in his impulses and being himself, whatever that is, at a given time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im there