Biographies & Memoirs

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him

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.


Introduction: The Fear of Black Laughter


A Native Son of Wistful Vista

“There’s a Bad Muthafucka Comin’ Your Way”

Backing Up While Swimming

“Ain’t That Many of Us to Go Around”


“Give Me Some Milk or Else Go Home”

A Way Out of Here Other Than That Door

Monday, December 22, 1969


There’s a Riot Goin’ On

The Word Made Flesh

A Screaming Comes across the Sky

“Nigger, Come Out of That Black Skin and Be Black, Nigger”

“Let It Stay Heavy if Not Hard”


“I See That Man in My Mind and Go with Him”

“There’s a Person Here That’s Possessed”

“Let’s Get Him before Somebody Else Does”

Surrender, Richard

“You Hollywood Faggots Can Kiss My Rich Happy Black Ass”

“Does It Look Like I’m Smiling to You, Motherfucker?”

“When You Get off That Stage, There’s a Loneliness That Comes over You”

“My Mind’s Thinking About Shit I Don’t Want to Be Thinkin’ About”


“The Part of Me That Wanted to Die Did”

Is Comedy Stand-Up Poetry?

“I Guess That’s a Smile. I Hope That’s His Face”

“I’m Finding It Hard Imitating Richard Pryor”

The Last Temptation of Richard

Epilogue: Going to Meet the Man

Joe’s Postscript



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