About RPJ

In His Own Right

Born in Peoria, Illinois, on April 10, 1962, at only 6 months, the first-born son of Richard Pryor and his first wife, Patricia Watts, had to stay in the hospital for several weeks until he reached 5 pounds - and he was so small, his parents had to buy doll socks to fit his feet.


Raised by his mother and grandparents - his dad being away on tour for 3 years - Richard attended public school in Peoria and spent summers with his father. As a child, he would introduce his father's shows, an opportunity that led the way to his love of performing.


While in grade school, Richard became interested in music, so he took up the trombone but soon found that blowing his own horn caused his lips to itch, so in sixth grade he switched to drama class and has been performing, in one way or another, ever since.


In high school, Richard started writing his own scripts and appearing in variety shows once or twice a year. Not only did he sing in the gospel choir at church, which he attended weekly with his mother, but he also sang in the choir at school and was cast in mystery plays, talent shows, variety shows, and musicals (including South Pacific). During these years, Richard was clearly setting the foundation for his future.


Upon graduation in 1980, Richard headed for Los Angeles, joined the Screen Extras Guild, and did "extra" work on his father's films and productions: He was a production associate on The Color Purple and even dabbled in stand-up comedy, working at The Comedy Store in Hollywood, one of his father's old haunts.


The next year, Richard entered the Navy and was stationed in San Diego and Virginia Beach - but it was during a stint in Scotland that he continued his desire to perform: He started lip-syncing to songs, and started doing drag professionally for the first time back in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Two years later, in 1983, he left the Navy, moved back to Peoria, and became involved in female-impersonation shows and the pageant system, performing on stage with dancers and actors and doing drag until the late 1980s.


The early 1990s found Richard on a different path: He decided to become a minister. Through his church in Peoria, he got licensed twice, training with an instructor who was a theologian at Chicago's Moody Bible College in downtown Chicago. During the 1990s, Richard spoke and ministered in Atlanta, St. Louis, and various locations in the U.S.


From 2000-2005, Richard lived in Des Moines, Iowa, and worked in telecommunications, as well as in bars, bar tending and running karaoke shows. His mother, Patricia Price, died in 2003, and in 2005, when his comedic icon and award-winning father died of a heart attack, Richard decided to expand on everything he had been working for: As a tribute to his father, this talented singer and actor decided to re-launch his career: "Certain things are in your DNA, whether you go after them or not," he reflects.


After being invited to New York City in 2006, Richard met a man named Marty Fischer, who invited him to the New York Comedy Festival. Richard's rendition of "His Eye on the Sparrow" created quite a stir, this fantastic reception making him feel validated artistically. The next day, he flew to Peoria and then back to New York City, where he stayed with his sister-in-law.


No stranger to doing all kinds of things, Richard did porter work but soon learned about the New York Artist Unlimited Theatre - Downeast Art Center - and landed a part in a play at CringeFest, substituting for a cast member. Although he was now spending all of his time at the theatre - sleeping on an army cot, cooking his food on a hot plate, studying his lines, and rehearsing with the cast at night - he was doing what he had wanted to do all along: He was acting! Regarding his love of performing, Richard says, "I love to see what I can get out of the depths of my soul to portray a character. The darker, the better for me. I love following a script but love working with directors that allow you to let go and let the character breathe the way you see him."


Also, at this time, Richard was becoming more involved with his other love: singing. Not only did he perform at the world-famous Birdland in New York City, as well as at the Metropolitan Room, he became a member and performer at the famed Friars Club. And he sang in numerous venues throughout the U.S., as well as at the Catskills in New York state, the Jazz Celebration Series in upstate New York, Chicago, Indiana and a five-show performance in Michigan.


Instead of getting people to help him because of who his father was, Richard Pryor has tried to do it all on his own: "No one can say I didn't work for what I've achieved."


MUSIC: Richard has recorded with various gospel groups in the Midwest such as the Sounds of Deliverance and Voices of Refuge. Mr. Pryor had a lead role at the Sage Theater in the musical "Socks" playing the lead Gym-sock. He has performed in several productions in the International Cringe Festival.


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