Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Encore Presentation: Interview With Richard Pryor

Aired December 10, 2005 - 21:00   ET


RICHARD PRYOR, COMEDIAN: Get up and go. And -- but I can't.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, comedy giant Richard Pryor died today of a heart attack at 65, after battling multiple sclerosis for nearly 20 years. Starting in the 1960s, Richard Pryor blazed a brilliant, hugely influential comic trail for everyone from Eddie Murphy to Chris Rock.

Here now in his own words, the late great Richard Pryor, in a special encore edition of LARRY KING LIVE.


LARRY KING, HOST: We have been laughing at his comedy for more than three decades, but his life has not been all laughs. In fact, despite 20 comedy albums and major motion films, Richard Pryor is known as much for his lows as his highs. And you can read all about it in a very candid autobiography, "Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences." There you see the book cover. We welcome the kid from Peoria, who has seen it all, Richard Pryor.

Is is true that you wrote this book for money?

PRYOR: No. I wrote it because I wanted to tell my side of the story, because other people have written books about me. But they don't know me, they never talked to me, and they made up stuff.

KING: So this quote that you said that you did it for money is wrong?

PRYOR: Wrong.

KING: You did it because you wanted to get your story out?

PRYOR: Yeah.

KING: Was it difficult to write?

PRYOR: Oh God, yes. God bless Todd Gold.

KING: Your editor?

PRYOR: Yeah -- no, the writer.

KING: Oh, he wrote it with you?

PRYOR: Yeah. I mean, I love him. I appreciate him a lot. And...

KING: What was the hardest part?

PRYOR: Remembering, because there's things I had forgotten. Or -- you know, I guess everybody, your life, you have a way of remembering it, but there's the way it is, it's different from the way we remembered it. But, you know, and then you talk about it two or three times, and then you get to the point and say, 'Wait a minute, that didn't really happen, here's what happened.' And that got Todd, he'd go, 'Oh, really?'

KING: It's painful, too.

PRYOR: Yeah, very.

KING: When, Richard, did this multiple sclerosis come on?

PRYOR: I think it came on in '86.

KING: Did it have anything to do with your hectic lifestyle, or is it just luck of the draw?

PRYOR: The doctors said what you said, the luck of the draw.

KING: So it had nothing to do with the fact that you had drug problems or anything like that?

PRYOR: Nothing, nothing. But I prayed that it don't, you know. I said, 'Please, God, don't let this be it.' And it's not -- it's just -- I'm working with this lady now that is helping me. I got to walking here today somewhat. And I'm happy about that. The lady sees a way out for me.

KING: Is this a physical therapist?

PRYOR: Yeah. And she sees a way out for Richard, you know. And the other lady was in the office and was talking to Jenny, and she told Jenny, she told Jenny, said, 'Jenny, keep coming back,' because she's good. She's really good.

KING: How often you do this?

PRYOR: Well, I did it one time, so far. So I'll go again Monday.

KING: Can you explain what multiple -- you love when I do this, don't you? I get a little animated. What multiple sclerosis does to you?

PRYOR: It makes your arms do that and your legs, you know, stuff like that. KING: Motor control.

PRYOR: Yeah. That's all I know.

KING: Is there pain involved in it?

PRYOR: No, just embarrassing. You get very angry.

KING: Does it affect your sense of humor?

PRYOR: Well, I don't know.

KING: You're going to work, right?


KING: You're going to do concerts?


KING: You're going to go on stage?

PRYOR: Yes. It's up to Jennifer.

KING: Your ex-wife, who lives with you like a friend, right, who takes care of you?

PRYOR: Yes, yes, she does. She does that.

KING: I mean, are you going to go on tour? Are you planning a concert tour?

PRYOR: I don't know. I'm planning to -- we're going to the Comedy Store, and then...

KING: Whatever comes.

PRYOR: There you go. Thanks for helping me.

KING: All right. The book is doing very well. You got great reviews on it.

PRYOR: I'm glad.

KING: This -- by the way, the acting part, which came later, after all your stand-up, do you now consider yourself -- were you more a comedy actor?

PRYOR: I think I'm just me. And I don't know -- I mean, I've seen acting, you know. I saw "Amadeus," you know, I mean, stuff like that, you see it and you go, 'God.' I mean, when that guy was reading that music, I mean, he deserved the Academy Award for that, just that room where he was reading the music, and it made him very angry. He looked at the sheets and he couldn't believe what he saw. And I understood it.

KING: Yeah. Somebody else wrote it, why couldn't I write it?

PRYOR: Yeah.

KING: Could you have played that?


KING: Could not?

PRYOR: No. Wouldn't have. No, not that I couldn't have, I wouldn't have. I wouldn't have taken that part, because that was a big part.

KING: You would have been afraid of it?

PRYOR: No, not afraid. It's just -- it's excellent.

KING: The thing with you and Gene Wilder, did that just happen? That you work so well together?

PRYOR: I think so. I think so. Gene, by the way, you know, he wrote that "Young Frankenstein?"

KING: Great movie.

PRYOR: I never knew that when we were around each other.

KING: He never told you?


KING: He and Mel Brooks wrote it, right?

PRYOR: Yes, that's what I mean. He wrote it, and Mel Brooks directed it. But, Jesus, it's great.

KING: Oh, that's maybe the classic comedy.

PRYOR: Yeah.

KING: Our guest is Richard Pryor. The book covers everything, the rough childhood in Peoria, molested at the age of 6, he worked the black-belt clubs in Cleveland, Chicago and Buffalo, spent six weeks in a burn unit after a freebasing accident. It is all in there. Richard Pryor's book is "Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences" from Pantheon, now in stores everywhere.

When we come back, we'll include your phone calls for a comedic genius, who keeps on keeping on, Richard Pryor. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God, how disgusting.



KING: We're back with Richard Pryor. Our first caller is from Los Angeles, and it is the one and only George Carlin. Are you there, George?


PRYOR: Hi, George.

CARLIN: Hi, Richard.

PRYOR: How you doing?

CARLIN: I wonder if you remember smoking pot in the back of the Cafe A Go-Go on Bleecker Street?


KING: Did the two of you do that together?

CARLIN: Oh yeah. And he always held on to the joint much longer than anybody else.

KING: George, stop it.

CARLIN: I'm sorry.

KING: What -- in your opinion, as one of the great monologists, what is Pryor's gift to us?

CARLIN: Well, Richard has the gift of honesty and poetry. He knows how to take what's real and turn it into something that, well, that you just sit around and cry a little and laugh a lot.

KING: Are we all, kind of, in a sense, all monologists in his debt, in a sense?

CARLIN: Well, I would say that anyone who works in comedy knows that Richard is the master, and that -- there were a few of us who went through the kind of changes Richard did, because in Greenwich Village, Richard, you were still doing Rumplestiltskin and I was doing Wonderful Whino.

PRYOR: Yeah.

CARLIN: And then we kind of set out on our paths to find more out about ourselves, and that's what happened. And Richard's story is a beautiful one and a brilliant one.

PRYOR: Thanks, George.

KING: Thanks for calling, George.

CARLIN: My pleasure. And best to both you guys. Richard, I love you.

PRYOR: Thank you, man. I love you back.

CARLIN: OK. Bye bye.

KING: Thanks. George Carlin. We go to Miamisburg, Ohio for Richard Pryor. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. How are you?

KING: Hi. Fine.

CALLER: I have a question for Richard. Number one, I'm a big fan. I read in a magazine that you believe that your multiple sclerosis is a punishment for the way you used to live your life. And if this is true, why do you believe that?

PRYOR: I didn't know I ever said that.

KING: You don't think it's a punishment?


KING: You think it's just bad luck?

PRYOR: Yeah, just bad -- you know, the draw of the cards. You know, it just is. My life, it's part of my life. And I accept it.

KING: You licked an addiction to cocaine, didn't you?

PRYOR: No, you never lick that.

KING: Are you still an addict?

PRYOR: Always.

KING: But you haven't used it in...

PRYOR: I haven't used it.

KING: How were you able to stop using it?

PRYOR: Getting away from the people that had it, and cleaning up my life, in a sense. You know, I mean, drugs will kill you, you know? That's the truth of it.

KING: You write very, I guess, emotionally, about that fire incident. Was that the hardest thing to write in the book?

PRYOR: Yeah. It was hard for me to face that person.

KING: Who did that?

PRYOR: Yeah. You know...

KING: Why did he do that?

PRYOR: Because he wanted to die. He wanted to just say, 'What the hell?' You know, 'Let's go.' You know, and God said, 'No, sorry, you don't get to call the shots on that. I'll tell you when you get to go. But I'll give you a little something to take with you.'

KING: Hey, Rich.

PRYOR: What?

KING: What was it like to be on fire?

PRYOR: What was it like?

KING: What was that like?

PRYOR: First, it was scary and petrifying and awesome. You know, fires -- it looks -- you know, a fire looks red and stuff? But it's really orange and white. I didn't know that until after it was over. I said, 'Wait a minute, this is not -- this is fire, but it don't look like it.' And...

KING: But the pain must be...

PRYOR: Excruciating is the word. You know, because when that guy wiped me in the hospital, the guy was giving me a shower, and they have them little brushes, things, and the guy said -- he showed it to me first, said, 'Look, this is a sponge, right?' I said, 'Yeah.' But I had no idea what that would do.

KING: Pain?

PRYOR: Yeah. I didn't have any idea.

KING: Brooklyn, New York for Richard Pryor. The book is "Pryor Convictions." Hello.

CALLER: Hello. I also have multiple sclerosis since 1983. And I also -- if I would have ever lost my sense of humor, they would put me in a rubber room. I'd like to ask Richard, how -- does he have trouble keeping his sense of humor? Never lose it, Richard. And I love you.

PRYOR: Thank you very much, sir.

KING: Do you have trouble? Are there days you get really depressed?

PRYOR: Very. I have days when I just don't know who I am, where I am, what I'm doing here. But then, it comes back and says, 'You're Richard, and you're here, and you had a shot, and you messed it up. So you've got to stay here.' Because we're all going to die, we just don't get to choose when.

KING: But one of the crazy things about this disease is, your mind is perfect, right, so you know you want to turn right, and your body is turning left?

PRYOR: Yeah, that's what's scary, is, like, you want to go this way and your body goes that way. And that's very embarrassing. And then your arm goes up sometimes like that. I mean...

KING: And you don't want it to go up.


KING: Our guest is Richard Pryor. The autobiography is "Pryor Convictions." Tomorrow night, Spence, Thornburgh, Tenner, Grimes and Jim Moret. Governor Pete Wilson on Thursday. We'll be right back.


PRYOR: What would it take to get this off the ground?

JOHN CANDY, ACTOR: Oh no, no, no, no, this thing melts, and he knows it.

PRYOR: I think that's unfair. Loyola versus Notre Dame in a field hockey game. This is fabulous. You went to Loyola, didn't you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've got to be kidding.

PRYOR: Listen, I want to bet $50,000 that Loyola wins.



KING: When you are judged by your peers in great fashion, that's the greatest judgment of all. We've heard from George Carlin. Now with us on the phone from Los Angeles is Brett Butler, calling for Richard Pryor. Are you there, Brett?



BUTLER: Hi. Hello, Richard.

PRYOR: Hi, Brett.

BUTLER: You know, I just, after George called, I don't even feel worthy to make this call. I just -- I have to tell you, you're my single most comedic hero of all. I, you know, I just -- I wish you all the best. But I have to tell you what you've done for, just, every good stand-up I've ever met, you know.

KING: Which is what?

BUTLER: Well, I remember when -- the album that really hit, I guess, the hardest was the one, 'Was It Something I Said?'


BUTLER: And I remember listening to that back in Georgia, and I watched rednecks laugh at it. And you just don't get better than that. I mean, there were bigots laughing. And I said, 'But look at the album cover. He's tied up, and you guys are burning him up,' and they still laughed at it. And, you know -- I know I can get dramatic about this, but, you know, that's what God put you here for. And you've just -- you know, just way delivered. You're just -- you know, you're just a living angel, to a bunch of us.

KING: We could make a case, Brett, couldn't we, that he is the definitive monologist?

BUTLER: Oh, definitely. I mean, you know, he's way up on the mountain. And, you know, you even come near that kind of truth and that kind of passion and that kind of goodness on stage -- I always loved the way when you talk about something really tiny about yourself, you always gave this big, universal meaning to it. And I've just -- you know, I'm just a real big fan. And I just wanted to take this chance just to tell you that.

PRYOR: You too. You're wonderful. And thank you for calling in.

KING: Thank you, Brett.

BUTLER: Thank you. Bye, guys.

KING: That's got to make you feel good. Beenton Harbor, Michigan. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Richard, I've been a real big fan of yours for a long time. I loved you in "Bustin' Loose." I think that's, like, one of my, you know, favorite movies...

PRYOR: Well, thanks.

CALLER: ... you know, that you ever made. And it's, like, well, do you have any regrets, you know, of the past, or anything like that, you know?

KING: You regret a lot, don't you?

PRYOR: Yeah, a lot, but there's nothing you can do about it. It's done. That's all I know. I've learned that.

KING: But you've got to live with that, huh?

PRYOR: Yeah, you live with it, and you just go, 'Don't do it again.'

KING: Are you -- by the way, I understand that you still smoke?

PRYOR: Yes, sir.

KING: How much?

PRYOR: About a pack a day sometimes.

KING: Oh, that's way down from what you used to do.

PRYOR: Yeah. Used to do a bunch of packs. But, because I'm with the Nazi now, it's real hard for me.

KING: The Nazi is the ex-wife that...

PRYOR: Yeah.

KING: You call her the Nazi?

PRYOR: Yes, because she has taken up for maybe -- people think Hitler is gone, you know, but she has taken his place.

KING: You watch the O.J. trial, right? You're...

PRYOR: I love it. I love the O.J. trial.

KING: Why?

PRYOR: But I wish it wasn't a trial. You know, it would be great if it was a TV show, because then O.J. could get up, man, and go somewhere, because he can't get up and go nowhere. He has to sit there and listen to all this stuff, all the time.

KING: Do you face the probability that he might have done this?

PRYOR: I have to, because people keep saying he did. I -- here, O.J., I hope that you're all right. And that whatever it comes out to be, you live with it, like you did in the courtroom. Just hang in, man.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Richard Pryor, after this.


KING: You're a comedy writer yourself. You wrote "Blazing Saddles" -- you co-wrote "Blazing Saddles." Don't you want to do your own stuff?

PRYOR: Say that again, sir?

KING: Would you have rather have written it yourself? In other words, when an idea comes to you, if you think comedically as a writer, would you rather write it?

PRYOR: I'd rather do it when it happens. I mean, I'd love to do that. I'd love to say, I've got an idea, and they say, OK, come on the set, we'll have it ready. But it don't work like that.

KING: Do you like writing as much as performing?

PRYOR: I like performing better than anything in the world.

KING: Why?

PRYOR: Because it's right now. It's live, and it's happening, or it's not happening. And to me, that's the best part of this business for Richard Pryor, is to get on stage in front of a live audience.

KING: That's better than making a movie?

PRYOR: Yes, for me.

KING: Because it's instant approval.

PRYOR: Yes, instant. Approval or disapproval. I love it. I love it. Always have.

KING: Well, you're at a stage now, you don't get disapproval, do you?

PRYOR: From myself, and if I'm not good, I get disapproval. I don't take it for granted. Believe me, I don't, and I know that I have other comedians tell me I could, I could just go onstage and people would laugh. I don't take that for granted. I think that you have to get out there and do your very best all the time. And if you're not going to do it, get off.

KING: In other words, you don't think you have an edge, being Richard Pryor, when the man says, "ladies and gentlemen, Richard Pryor!" and you walk on stage?

PRYOR: For a minute.

KING: A minute?


KING: Then you...

PRYOR: They'll give you that. They'll give you that for a minute, and then they say, now what?

KING: In other words, you still got to be funny.


KING: And I guess...


KING: ... since they paid a lot of money, there may be even more pressure to be funny.

PRYOR: Yes, Larry, there is.

KING: Tell me about this film. We're going to see some clips of it, and we'll talk about other things and take calls. You play -- you are basically a con man mistaken for a doctor?

PRYOR: Yes. There's a blackout in the hospital, and I'm -- I get mistaken for a doctor. I was in there trying to steal my files, and the nurse mistakens me for a doctor, and she says, "Come on, Dr. Slattery, let's go to work." And I know she doesn't know me, and I say, OK. So I go along with it, trying to escape every time I get a chance. And it gets more involved as it goes along, and a lot of funny things happen. There's some great people in this movie that I'm getting to work with for one time in my life, you know. I mean, it's an ensemble of fine actors, you know.

KING: Well, who else is in it?

PRYOR: Rachel Ticotin, Randall "Tex" Cobb, Bob Dishy, Bob Saget, and Ruben Blades, who is a very fine musician also, and he was doing this movie -- and I want to say to Ruben and his new wife, Lisa, I love them very much and I'm sorry I couldn't come to your wedding. And also, let me see, I know I am going to forget somebody -- Joe Mantegna.

KING: Who directed it?

PRYOR: Michael Apted. He's a good director.

KING: Are you easily directed, Richard?

PRYOR: I was in this.

KING: Have you been difficult in the -- I mean, do you take direction generally well?

PRYOR: If they're good. I mean, how can you not, if someone tells you something that's right on, how can you not accept that as being something better for you, you know? And I trusted Michael, from the very -- the first time I met him.

KING: I ask it because people usually with a sense of comedy, which is impossible to teach, either have it or they don't, and the comedic actor, one would guess, knows what he or she wants to do.

PRYOR: Well, I know when I read the script, I knew that if there was -- if this director that I was going to get was going to be good, then it will be no problem, because there was the script. It wasn't a picture where they said, don't worry about it, Richard will fix it. You know, most of my pictures, they go, don't worry about it, we don't have to write nothing, Richard will fix it. But in this case, there was things that were written already, so all I could do was embellish on those things.

KING: Did you take to acting easily?

PRYOR: I don't think that I can act at all, to be honest. I just can be who I am. I pretend to be this person, whoever it is. I don't call it acting.

KING: What do you call it?

PRYOR: I call it getting away with murder.

KING: You do not consider yourself an actor?

PRYOR: No, I'm not an actor. I've seen actors, great actors. I go to the movie and wish I could do what they do -- DeNiro, he just gives me chills, and if you see a great film, you see actors in it do great performances, you could tell that I'm not one of them. Like "Amadeus" is one of my favorite films.

KING: In other words, you could not play "Amadeus."

PRYOR: No, but I just love to watch that. I'd love to get a chance to get to do something like that one day. I'll work with some people like a project like that, like I feel "Critical Condition" was a project like that, because it was such fun to work with and such an ensemble of good actors and actresses.

KING: We are going to watch a scene from it. This one is called "Hurts all over." You want to set this up for us, Richard?

PRYOR: OK, I will set it up and say that I hope this actress doesn't kill me, but I don't remember her name that's in it with me, but it's a scene that I go into the room, I'm supposed to be a doctor but I'm not, but I see the lady looks good, so I figure why not.

KING: This is Richard Pryor from the forthcoming Paramount film, "Critical Condition."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Slattery, here's we have to start, is we have a roof worker that fell down in the storm, he has some X-rays in the trauma room. We have a guy that's been struck by lightning. We have a possible labor, not sure, no husband, six kids, full in now. We have a broken leg in the cast room, and when you're done with that, we need to get a doctor to deal with the detox ward, because the medicine men are screaming their medicine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. What a cute coat.

PRYOR: Why, thank you very much.

What seems to be the trouble?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, well, it hurts all over.

PRYOR: Doctor make it all better.


KING: You don't think that's good acting?


PRYOR: Oh, God forgive me. The lady -- I hope she doesn't kill me. I -- she's a fine actress. It's a shame that I don't remember her name. I'm sorry. Please forgive me.

KING: That's from "Critical Condition." We'll see another scene during this program as well. We'll be taking your calls for Richard Pryor. Let's cover a couple of other bases. Which of your films were you proudest of?

PRYOR: Things that I'm proudest of? Well, me, Richard Pryor, like, I always wanted to get laughs like Jerry Lewis made me laugh when I went to see him in "Sailor Beware." And I went to see a movie called "Which Way Is Up" in Chicago, and I heard laughs, and that, to me, is like -- was for me -- the moment for me to know that you made me laugh like that -- you got 'em, and I felt good about that movie.

KING: "Sailor Beware" had that much of an effect on you?

PRYOR: Say that again, sir.

KING: "Sailor Beware" had that much of an effect on you?

PRYOR: I'm -- I'm pretty stupid -- I didn't hear you. I'm sorry.

KING: I mean, the movie "Sailor Beware" had that much of an effect on you?

PRYOR: "Sailor Beware" had effect on me in terms of that my father came home from the movie with tears in eyes, and he said, "I'm going to let you out of the doghouse" and go see a movie. You've got to go see this. And he gave me money to go see Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin in "Sailor Beware," and I never saw people laugh like that in a theater before, running up and down the aisles and throwing popcorn, ripping the seats out. It was great.

KING: Were you a funny kid?

PRYOR: Yes, even when I didn't want to be -- especially when I didn't want to be.

KING: Meaning...

PRYOR: I mean I was a -- I guess you'd call a "nerd." Now that I can look back on it, I was -- I was a nerd. I thought I was cool, but really, I was just a nerd.

KING: I cannot picture you as a nerd.

PRYOR: Yeah, I can't picture me like that either. Isn't it amazing?


Everybody would like to be real cool -- I know that -- but I wasn't. I was just what I said -- I was a nerd. I remember that my face looked like "zit city," and I was always smiling. I got a picture of me somebody sent -- I was, like, 17 -- and it was awful. It was -- I was, "Oh, my God. That was me?" But I thought I was Marlon Brando.

KING: Were you a class clown? PRYOR: Yes, I was a class clown because I didn't study well. I couldn't do anything else, and the teachers would -- if they didn't throw me out -- they'd just make me stand in the corner. But I couldn't help it. That's what I found that I could get attention with.

KING: You were not a good student, then.

PRYOR: No. Not in reality. I look back now, and I was not a good student. I had some good teachers. I wish I'd paid more attention. I would've learned something.

KING: Did you know you were going to be successful? There are some performers who did. Barbra Streisand told me long ago that she knew, early on, that she was going to be something.

PRYOR: Well, she probably heard herself sing.

KING: You didn't know you were funny?

PRYOR: I knew that I was funny, but I never knew -- I thought maybe I'd make -- I heard a gentleman one time, he was in a sharkskin suit, and he was unique, and he said he was making $600 a week, and I said, "Man, $600 a week. I hope that, if ever I make that lucky, to make $600 a week, I'll be on top of the world."

KING: But never knew you would make it this big.

PRYOR: Never in my wildest imagination -- never, never.

KING: All right, then, this is a logical question, Richard, and I guess all those who haven't had the problem ask it. Why, when you attain what you never thought you would attain, would you need artificial inspiration like drugs?

PRYOR: I will try to answer you honestly as I can, OK?

KING: Sure.

PRYOR: I started out one time -- a lady introduced me to cocaine at a party -- and I'd never had any. I never knew about it at all, and something happened inside. I felt free. I let go of some inhibition or something. I just let loose, and everybody laughed and said, "Man, you ought to do some of that on the stage. You are funny." You know what I mean?

And, I said -- the next day, though, I woke up and I didn't have -- and I had to see those people again. I said, "Could I get some more of that?" And I got some more, and I said, "Good. It works for me. Look how this works. This is great."

And that's the way it starts. It's a very insidious disease, you know, the cocaine dependency, and you start out -- it's fun -- and the tragic part comes much later, but you don't know that at first. That's why it's very difficult to explain to someone why cocaine is so dangerous. KING: Looking back, were you funnier?

PRYOR: I was funny because I was funny. It wasn't because of the drugs, but I made the mistake of thinking that it was the drugs -- but it wasn't the cocaine. I think I'm funny.

KING: Yeah, you are. Is there a kind of realization day. I mean, do you look up one day and say, "I'm addicted to something"?

PRYOR: No, I didn't. I didn't realize that I had a real addictive problem until after I had tried to kill myself. I got out of the hospital, and I started back doing -- basing -- cocaine, and I was Christmas with my kids.

They usually go to Hawaii with me every Christmas, and one Christmas we were together, and I was in the house, and I didn't go to the beach with them, and it was Dec. 20 -- Dec. 19 -- and they went to the beach, and I just felt so depressed and down.

The next time they came back, I said, "I'm never going to do this again," and I threw it away for the 1600th time, and I went to the beach with them. My daughters taught me how to float on the water, and we had a great time, and a friend of mine called 10 days later and told me they were in the hospital for drug dependency. And I went to visit them, and I had a meeting -- you know they have a meeting, therapists sit around and talk, and the patients talk, and the therapists -- and I heard all this, and I said, "This is me. What's happening here is I need this. This is what I need." And I asked the therapist, could I join this group? And he said yes. Allan Rosenthal (ph) was the doctor then.

KING: I've talked to people who had a drinking problem who tell me that they do desire a drink everyday. They just don't take it. Reformed smokers say they want to smoke 20 years after they've given it up. Do you want -- did you want a drug today?

PRYOR: I think about it sometimes, but it's just a thought. It's not a thing that I do it. It's -- sometimes I drive and think about a drink, you know, and I say, "Well," and it goes. They get the real rush of it, like, I see it on the news or something like that, and I think, "Whew, wow," but it goes away. I don't do anything about it anymore.

KING: Are you therefore happier than you've ever been?

PRYOR: I don't know about what happiness is because that can make you real unhappy.


Thinking about, are you happy? You know, you meet someone and you go, "Are you happy?" You know, are you happy?

KING: I meant "happier." Is this a very good stage of your life?

PRYOR: Yes. This is -- right now, right at this moment, everything seems like it's better.


KING: Our special guest is Richard Pryor. He'll open in "Critical Condition" Jan. 16. We're going to see another scene from it in a little while. We'll take some calls as well. The first one is from San Jose, California. Hello.

CALLER: Yeah, Larry, Richard, you always hear the notorious stories about the way that Jackie Gleason works. I know you only had a few scenes with him in the movie "The Toy." I don't know how much time you had to really spend with him, but could you give us some kind of insight on this fascinating man?

PRYOR: I never met a finer human being, a more giving, a more sharing person with a young comedian than Jackie Gleason was with me. He'd take me -- we'd sit on the benches by the river, we'd talk, he'd tell me the greatest stories about his life -- and he's a fascinating human being that has been through a lot in his life. And he shared it with me.

KING: I've known Jackie a long time, and we talked -- I guess I've done 50 hours with Jackie, of interviewing. He always said that he was a quick take performer -- that you had to know your lines, and he got annoyed if someone had to do four or five or six takes.

Still the same way?

PRYOR: He was like -- he was so professional. He would come in so prepared. He would do a scene and hit his mark so perfectly that it was amazing to watch him -- it was -- because I go off the top most of the time, and it would -- he would go, "We're late one, Rich, you've got to hit your mark. We've got to do that over." But Jackie would hit his all the time, and he didn't get annoyed with that with me.

He would get annoyed at other things. He would say to me -- we'd talk about it. He'd say, "You know, Rich, I don't like the way so- and-so is.' He'd say it, you know. He'd tell me what it was that was bothering -- he'd say, "'cause I got mine, I'm ready for mine." And that was the great part -- the working with the Great One. You know, Jackie was just a marvelous man, and sharing -- that's what I mean. He shared it with me.

KING: He also told me once -- and I wonder if you feel the same way -- that the good comedian loves -- repeat -- loves when other people get laughs.

PRYOR: I agree with that. I love to laugh better now than I ever did. I love to go to comedy clubs and watch the comedians, and I enjoy that a lot.

KING: How about doing scenes with other people who get funny lines?

PRYOR: I don't do scenes with other people that get funny lines. (LAUGHTER)

KING: Roseburg, Oregon, with Richard Pryor. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, how you doing?


CALLER: I've always wondered -- I heard earlier that you wrote "Blazing Saddles."

PRYOR: Co-wrote.

CALLER: Oh, you co-wrote "Blazing Saddles"?


CALLER: I was wondering why you didn't play a major role in that movie.

PRYOR: Well, the studio didn't want me at that time. Mel Brooks wanted me, so he says, and that the studio didn't want me to be in that movie because of my record. They didn't trust me. They felt that I would go berserk and cost them money, so they had to get someone else, so he says.

KING: Was that the Cleavon Little role?

PRYOR: Yes, sir.

KING: Why did they think you would go berserk?

PRYOR: Well, at that time, my reputation was -- when I didn't like something, I'd just walk away, or I was troublesome, I guess. I don't know. I just -- hey -- it's over, so I -- I got to work with Mel Brooks, though, you understand that? I was in the room with him for about seven weeks.

KING: Another old friend. There is insanity, right?

PRYOR: That is a man who has lost it.


He is a man who has lost it, but he's a loving man. I mean, his losing it is loving -- it's about love with him.

KING: That is also a terrific film, by the way, and a great piece of film-writing.

PRYOR: We all had fun in that.

KING: We go to Toledo, Ohio. "Critical Condition" stars Richard Pryor, opens a week from Friday. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, how are you? KING: Hi.

CALLER: Richard, you're the greatest.

PRYOR: Thank you.

CALLER: I just wanted to know, could you tell me -- you're a great comedian -- have you ever decided or ever wanted to play a serious role? And if you would, who would you want to pattern yourself after?

PRYOR: Pattern myself after? I don't, I don't -- I would like to be able to play a serious role, as you say, but I'm -- that's not for me. I'm not an actor. You have to be an actor. I'm not an actor, you know? So I see it as -- for me -- I just go out and do -- it's easy to do them parts I play. To play like DeNiro or something, forget it.


KING: Have there been times when you're given a scene that you find difficult to do?

PRYOR: Yes, but if you get a good director, I think that any actor, any person who is a performer, can do it. You know, if you get a good director who will tell you, to walk you through it -- like for me, you have to walk me through it. If you want it a certain way, say, "No, I'd like it shaded this way, Richard, please." You know, I can do that.

KING: Are you very self-critical, Richard, like when you see your film as a finished product? You don't watch it as I would watch it, do you?

PRYOR: I don't know how you watch it, but I have a hard time watching a film by myself. I have a hard time watching Richard on the screen.

KING: Why?

PRYOR: Because it's not me, to me. It's someone else. I go, but I don't feel like that. When I did the movie was usually eight months ago. I mean, when the film comes out, I've grown eight months, so I look at it and go, "Who is that?"

KING: All right, how do you feel when you're in a room full of people watching yourself, and they're all laughing? It's not the same kick as making them laugh on stage, is it?

PRYOR: No, but it's a good feeling that people go to a movie that you're in and they enjoy it. That is a turn-on because you know they're high. It's a high.

KING: Mel Brooks counts the laughs. You ever do that?

PRYOR: Mel Brooks counts the laughs? KING: That's what he says -- he counts laughs.

PRYOR: One, two, three?

KING: Yeah.

PRYOR: Seven?

KING: That's right. We're up to 63 laughs.

PRYOR: Mel can do that, you know. Mel's crazy.


KING: Hartford, Connecticut, with Richard Pryor. Hello.

CALLER: Hey, Rich, how you doing? You're looking great these days.

PRYOR: Thank you very much.

CALLER: Good. Rich, my question is in two parts: One, which direction do you see your movie roles going in, and, two, will we ever see you and comedian Eddie Murphy on the same screen together?

PRYOR: One, my direction of roles -- I have no idea what the direction will be. I hope that they will make the public laugh and that they'll enjoy themselves and they'll come out of the movies and say, "Hey, I'd like to see more of that," or say something else -- and two, I'd love to do a movie with Eddie Murphy. I really would because he's one of my favorites, and I'd love to work with him because I like him, and I think he likes me.

KING: One would think that by now someone would have come up with something for the both of you.

PRYOR: Once Eddie and I were going to do a thing together and it just fell through. I don't know why. I think they changed people at Paramount at the time, and so one day, hopefully, we'll do something together. That would be nice.

KING: Tarzana, California, for Richard Pryor. Hello.

CALLER: Good evening, gentlemen. My question for Mr. Pryor is that I noticed in his second live film -- concerts film -- that there is quite a lot of what I would call "anti-white" humor, which doesn't bother me because I think that can be done very well, and I think Mr. Pryor is very capable. It just seemed like it was a little bit more negative in that second film, a little bit more vitriolic.

PRYOR: I'm listening to you. I'm trying to understand what "vitriolic" means.

CALLER: Oh, more negative.

PRYOR: Oh. CALLER: Much more negative. It seemed that way.

KING: I guess "angrier"?

PRYOR: I don't know. Is he talking to me now?

KING: Yeah.

PRYOR: I don't know what the man meant. I'm sorry.

KING: I guess I'll try to rephrase it for him. He felt that in your second in-concert film, the anti-white part of your humor, which, as he said, certainly has a place in that album -- he mentioned film -- that it seemed more angry. Is that true?

PRYOR: No. That's his opinion. I'm sorry that you feel that way, but no. That wasn't my intent.

KING: Your intent is just to be funny, isn't it?

PRYOR: Yeah. I'd like to be funny and tell the truth in a funny way. I make people laugh. I don't want them to feel -- go leaving the theater feeling I've singled them out, and they're different.

KING: When we come back, we going to see another scene from "Critical Condition." We'll take some more calls for Richard Pryor, one of the great comedic talents ever. The film "Critical Condition" from Paramount will open around the nation one week from Friday, Jan. 16.

By the way, among the guests tomorrow night will be Sen. Chris Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut. He is one of the strongest opponents of contra aid in the United States Senate, and he's the senator -- he went down to Nicaragua, you'll remember, and brought back Mr. Hasenfus. Allen Ginsberg, the famed beat poet of the Beat Generation, will be with us on the radio tonight on Mutual Broadcasting. Don Farmer and Chris Kerr (ph) will be back with you in half hour for more late updates on news on your 24-hour coverage of news here on CNN.

And don't forget, two hours from now, as "Sports Illustrated" said, you will get the best wrap-up of sports on American television anywhere, local or national.

We'll be right back with more Richard Pryor. We're going to see another scene from "Critical Condition," as well, all ahead on LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.



PRYOR: You're supposed to be working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ACTOR: Hey, Doc, don't waste your time, man. You know, help those people who can be saved, man. Just throw me in the bed and forget about me, and to make sure that my last days are comfortable, keep me highly medicated. You know my condition.

PRYOR: Yes, I do. You're suffering from a severe case of "full of (EXPLETIVE DELETED)."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ACTOR: I'm sort of confused, Doc. Would you give me that in layman's terms?

PRYOR: The layman's terms means I'm going to check this whole thing out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ACTOR: Oh, no, no. I told you, Doc, you...Ow, ow -- what the hell is that, man?

PRYOR: I don't like the way that sounds.


PRYOR: I don't like that one either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ACTOR: That makes two of us.

PRYOR: Did you just experience a sharp pain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ACTOR: No, I just experienced a holy vision. What the hell do you think, man?



KING: That's funny.

We go to Sioux Falls, South -- we're going to try to go to -- I think we're going to go to -- Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with the right number. Hello.

CALLER: It's an honor, Richard.

PRYOR: Hello.

CALLER: The question I would like to ask you, have you ever considered lending your voice to any animated features?

KING: Boy, you have a great voice.

PRYOR: I do?

KING: Yeah, you do. It's a distinctive, unusual voice.

PRYOR: That's what my father used to say.


No, I've never thought about doing anything like that, but thank you, in case, you know, when I need it, I'll know what to do. I'll say, "Hey, look, I can do animation. Listen to this voice!" KING: Did you enjoy being a baseball player in the "Brewster's Millions"?

PRYOR: I loved it! I loved it! That was a lot of fun because I know absolutely nothing about baseball, and to get out there and play with people who have played the game, and listen to them talk about it, and be a pitcher. I stood up to the plate one time just in practice playing, and a real pitcher threw a ball -- it must have been 90 miles an hour -- and I think baseball players should at least get a million dollars to stand up to the bat because that ball -- I couldn't -- there was nothing -- it was like -- and I could feel danger.


KING: You're not a fan of the game. Did that make it harder to do?

PRYOR: No, I became one. I became a big fan of baseball after that movie, and I loved watching the sixth game of the World Series this year -- some of the best baseball I've ever seen in my life was played that night.

KING: Are you a sports fan, in general?

PRYOR: I like boxing, football, and some other things I can't mention on television, but I like sports. I do, I do. And I like that I'm on your show. I watch it, Larry -- and I'm here -- and you know, it's fun, and I'm really glad that you had me here.

KING: I'm glad you're here, too. We have about a minute and a half left. I'm glad that you enjoyed it. I'm glad that you watch. Can you tell us what film is next before the concert tour -- you said you were going to do one more movie

PRYOR: I'm doing a film called "Moving" for Warner Bros. It starts March 1.

KING: What's it about?

PRYOR: About two hours too long.


KING: Well, that was out of Abbott and Costello. Go ahead.


PRYOR: And after that, I'm going to go on the road, I hope, and I've got a movie at Columbia, but I don't know if they're going to have it ready to do, so I hope they do. If they do, I'll do that. If not, I'm going on the road because I really miss it.

KING: What is "Moving" about?

PRYOR: "Moving" is about a gentleman who loses his job, and he's very disgruntled, and his family's all messed up and he gets another job in another state far away from where he is, from New Jersey to Boise, Idaho, and it's about moving to there, and it's funny. I think it's funny.

KING: Do you like the Hollywood life? Do you like the taking of meetings, the lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the movie deal that's proposed and doesn't come -- that whole scene?

PRYOR: Wait a minute. You mean, you take a lunch, and you get a deal, and you go to the Beverly Hills Hotel? Well, how come I've never been invited to the Beverly Hills Hotel?

KING: Come on, Richard.

PRYOR: I go to meetings. I go to meetings in people's offices. I sit there and listen to them talk in their offices, but...

KING: In other words, you don't wear open shirts, wear gold chains and live the image we have of it?

PRYOR: Well, no, I'm not there. I'm not that kind of person, so that doesn't appeal to me in that sense. I like, I like being around people that stimulate me, stimulate me in a conversation and talk real to me, you know, and I just -- I'm not in it -- I'm not in that.

KING: You like Southern California?

PRYOR: I like it a lot. I don't like living here that much because there's a lot of gravity here because...

KING: A lot of what?

PRYOR: A lot of gravity in the business. You know, you lose perspective of who you are. I love my home I have in Hawaii, and I love to go home to Peoria and visit my family.

KING: Aloha, Richard.

PRYOR: Aloha, Larry.



© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines