Richard Pryor Jr. talks about the entertainment industry, living in the Big Apple, life lessons and, of course, his famous father
By Rodric Bradford
PHOTOS BY T-BOYE DOE
RICHARD PRYOR. EVERYONE KNOWS THE NAME. He is considered one of the most famous and influential comedians of all time, and many would argue he is the greatest stand-up comedian of all time. Recently, AZSAL chatted with Richard Pryor Jr., the oldest child of the legendary comic for a frank discussion on life, his talents, living in New York City and his father as he launches his new RichardPryorJunior.com website this spring.
AZSAL: Obviously you are constantly compared to your father. How are you two different in the entertainment industry?
Richard Pryor Jr: We are different in a lot of ways. He was a comedian, and I have worked as a comedian, singer, bartender and other areas in the entertainment and nightlife industries. In fact, I am continuing my one-man show that features both comedy and cabaret singing that was nominated for an industry award last year. I also love singing jazz and the blues, and I am teaming up with popular New York City performer Velocity Chyaldd to record the legendary jazz song “Summertime” later this spring.
AZSAL: How do you like living in New York City?
RPJ: I don’t like it, I love it because the heartbeat and energy of New York City. I came here in 2006 after my dad died with $300 in my pocket and never went back. It was an accident because I was in the city for an award ceremony for my father, and I received the wrong flight information. It was cheaper to rebook me for a round trip flight and I have been here ever since.
AZSAL: Why do you enjoy New York City living so much?
RPJ: Because moving to New York City was really a rebirth for me. New Yorkers let you know immediately if they love you or hate you. When they were receptive to my performances and singing, it really gave me a lot of confidence. Once I came here, I had to learn the difference between show business and real business and it has helped me a lot.
AZSAL: You are writing a book about you and your father. What is your inspiration and motivation for writing it?
RPJ: I want to show the public how parallel our lives are. We partied together and had many of the same ups and downs. I am just now comfortable being in my own skin as Richard Pryor’s son, not as a second version of Richard Pryor. I want to show people how you can come through difficult circumstances and situations and make something positive out of it at the end. As a member of the LGBT community I feel it is necessary to be a role model and open a dialogue so people are not afraid of who they are.
AZSAL: What do you think of the biopic movie on your father’s life that is due to be released later this year?
RPJ: It may be a huge success but it won’t be accurate. It will probably be more about his ex-wife as the victim and the hero. The movie is written as if we did not even exist in his life.
AZSAL: You are big on life lessons and making the most out of any situation, no matter how negative it may first appear. How did you get this way?
RPJ: I have gotten to where I am in life because of struggles, pain, sorrow, determination and not giving into fear. That is the bulk of it. If you can get through all of that and look at the positive side you will get further in life and be more comfortable in your own skin. The way you carry yourself is important, people perceive you the way you handle yourself.
AZSAL: Why did you decide to return to the comedy stage after being gone for nearly three decades?
RPJ: Because originally I let other comedians dictate and judge my performances and not the audience. 20 years ago I had a woe-is-me attitude about life and by the early 1980s I swore I would never do standup comedy again. My attitude has definitely changed.
AZSAL: Any parting advice to our readers?
RPJ: Yes, visit New York City at least once in your life! There is always some place to go and something to do. The diversity is amazing, you can have a Ethiopian neighborhood right next to a French neighborhood, and so on. But you definitely need to bring your street smarts! Special thanks to Rodney Hood.