But life was never easy for Pryor, who died last Saturday at age 65 from a heart attack. He grew up in Peoria, Illinois in his grandmother's bordello. After being expelled from school in eighth grade, he worked as a truck driver, laborer and in a factory. He joined the army but was discharged after stabbing another serviceman in a fight.
He returned home and performed on what was called the "chitlin circuit." On stage he found his calling. He went to New York, headlined in the Greenwich Village comedy clubs, modeling himself after Bill Cosby, and made his network television debut in 1964.
Pryor has appeared in 40 films and won numerous awards, including an Oscar for writing "Blazing Saddles."
Hear about the life and impact of Richard Pryor.
Paul Mooney, longtime friend and writing collaborator of Richard Pryor. His acting credits include the nightclub comedian Junebug in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled" and soothsayer Negrodamus on the Dave Chappelle show. He was a writer for the television show "Sanford and Son" and head writer for "Good Times" and "In Living Color.";
Eugene Robinson, associate editor of the Washington Post, where he writes a biweekly column on culture and politics. His column Tuesday was titled "Richard Pryor: Preacher of Truth."
Tricia Rose, professor of American Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She specializes in 20th century African-American culture and politics, social thought, popular culture.
This program aired on December 16, 2005.