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Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  894 ratings  ·  180 reviews
No one who saw Richard Pryor alone on stage with nothing but a microphone in his hand could have doubted that here was a man possessed of genius. But few have any sense of the strange, violent, and colorful landscape from which he emerged.

His childhood in Peoria, Illinois, was spent just trying to survive. Yet the culture into which he was born—his mother was a
Hardcover, 297 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Algonquin Books
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  894 ratings  ·  180 reviews

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Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I grew up in the '80s, so as a kid, even though I was aware of stuff like "Stir Crazy" and "Silver Streak," my formative Pryor experiences were with "The Toy" and "Superman III" -- and even though I knew there was a lot more to the story, and I was familiar with the basic contours of Pryor's bittersweet tale, much of what David and Joe Henry delve into in "Furious Cool" was new to me.

Of course, plenty has already been written about Pryor's life and times, but that's because his story
M.R. Dowsing
May 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I came to this more from being a fan of co-author Joe Henry's music than anything else, although I already had some appreciation for Pryor. Henry once opened an album with a beautiful song called 'Richard Pryor Addresses A Tearful Nation' and it seems that he has spent quite a few years working on this with his brother. Both are clearly passionate about their subject. The result is not really a straightforward biog, but it IS a well-written and thoughtful look at the man and his work. It's espec ...more
My knowledge of Richard Pryor is pretty non existent compared to some other comedians from my childhood; I remember him primarily from Superman III, which I know now is not his best work.

So I came into this book with no actual knowledge of Pryor and I can't tell you how weird it was to read this book and come to the realization that the man lived quite a life of either a lot of bad moments derived from bad choices or that he was born on a bad luck day and has made due with what he wa
Stephen Curran
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Pretty good book on Richard Priors life. It is clear he walked the thin line between genius and madness. The book is a bit arty in places but overall it is a good read.

Title: Richard Pryor And The World That Made Him
Author: David Henry and Joe Henry
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: 4

"Richard Pryor And The World That Made Him" by David Henry & Joe Henry

Book Description....
"No one who saw Richard Pryor alone on stage with nothing but a microphone in his hand could have doubted that here was a man possessed of genius. But few have any sense of the strange, violent, and color
Rob Slaven
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Firstly and as usual, I received this book for because someone was giving it away in exchange for a review. Despite that kindness I'll give my candid opinions below.

This book is at once a biography and a textbook on sociology. The opening chapters focus on black comedy and the environment into which Pryor entered the entertainment world. Throughout the book the names fall like rain and anybody who ever was or hoped to be anybody entered the scene for at least a bit. About a third of
Very interesting and very sad. I could hear Richard Pryor's voice in all the character bits and understand a little better who he was. When I think about artists like Pryor, Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman and others who gave such beautiful and unique performances but were eventually consumed by addictions or demons, I wonder about that line between genius and madness. Hopefully not all geniuses have to be mad in that way. p.s. I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway.
Nov 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I proofread this book for the publisher. This is one of those books where it was hard to read it like a proofreader, because I wanted so much to just READ it. I found it compelling, hilarious, poignant, tragic, and above all, well-told. It brought back many memories of my life and Richard Pryor's place in it, and I learned many things about his life that I had not known.
Vannessa Anderson
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The greatest tragedy of Richard Pryor may have been that he was content to be labeled a comic. If you read transcripts of his breakthrough routines, you’ll find nothing remotely funny in the words themselves as printed on the page. It was all in his delivery, his empathy, his willingness to give himself fully to the characters he portrayed, and to let them take possession of him—so much that it seems blasphemous to speak of other comedians when discussing Richard Pryor. There are no others. No ...more
Loren C
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I learned a lot I didn’t know, which in a lot of ways made me appreciate/understand him more. But I also learned about abuse of a lot of women which...made me appreciate him less.
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended Reading..
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this biography of one of the most brilliant comedians and truth tellers of the 20th century.
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction

A riveting portrayal of an American icon. Furious Cool is two books, really. The first half is a fascinating exploration of the sociological and cultural landscape surrounding Pryor's development as a person and as a comedian. The second half is more of a compilation of events, stories, recollections revolving around the comedian's ascendancy and eventual decay. I found the book at once an exciting, riveting, and heartbreaking: a frustrating portrayal of this deeply important performer who also happ
Kevin Dubs
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Bios are always hard for me to "review" as I get caught up in rating the subject or the book! Like most 80s kids I knew of Richard from Stir Crazy etc and glimpses of stand up on various shows. I had ordered a compilation of Pryor's in November to catch many of his routines which has been great but as the book points out, recording do not capture the trip that Pryor takes you on. In a coincidence Joe Henry was playing a solo gig in Mpls that I read about and he mentioned the book. Being a fan of ...more
Lance Eaton
Furious Cool was a fascinating look into the life of Richard Pryor. I was somewhat familiar with his comedy and more familiar with him as an actor in a handful of movies I watched when growing up (e.g. See No Evil, Hear No Evil). However, the Henry brothers provide a rich history around Richard Pryor that marks him as one the best comics along with George Carlin. What I found most fascinating is how they are able to contextualize Pryor's work within the broader range of African American entertai ...more
Dec 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies

This book provided a descriptive look into the life of a comedian that was considered a genius but failed in the rest of his life as a, responsible father, husband and generally overall as a person. At time the book reads so sad, I guess that I have become jaded with so many celebrities destroying their lives not know the consequences of their horrible choices of consuming substances that destroys their body and eventually themselves.

The author describes time of brilliance of Pryor
Feb 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Before reading this book my knowledge of Richard Pryor pretty much started and ended with watching Brewster's Millions as a kid, so I was intrigued when I heard an interview with the authors, and they argued that Richard was on par with Bob Dylan and Miles Davis as a great American artist.

Despite learning some horrible things about Pryor (and how unforgivably violent he was towards his wives), this is a deep story, told in an experimental way with a lot of good tangents. The authors originally wrote th
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2014
I received this book through the Early Reviewer program here on LT. I suppose it wasn't all that early, as it was published in 2013. It is a biography of Richard Pryor. It also is a history of the political, social, and comedic environment that existed at the time Pryor was growing up, and the environment that was greatly affected by what he accomplished.

This is by no means, a pretty story. Richard lived a hard life, from growing up in his Grandmother's brothel, to a gargantuan drug
I tried, but the writing style is sort of insufferably self-important. I picked it up because I love one of Joe Henry's albums and his co-writing a book about Richard Pryor seemed interestingly random. But with sort of the barest acknowledgement of the problems associated with two white guys writing about such an important black cultural figure, they proceed to adopt a knowing they can't have. And use a riffing-style of writing they haven't earned. I didn't get that far into it, but I'm not goin ...more
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding. Fantastic. Loved it. Great biography of a complex man with great historical details and good comparisons to other comedians of his time. Very well-researched by the Henry brothers, with plenty of interviews with friends and colleagues of Pryor, as well as background on the history of American culture in general (i.e. why SNL was destined for greatness from the start, why Pryor's jokes were never stolen, the westward movement of comedy clubs in the 60s, etc.)

I definitely recommend t
Jan 19, 2014 rated it liked it
I might bump this up to four stars just for the research and unflinching look at this genius with a dark, dark side. However, the italicized discursions into attempted literature and mixed metaphors in the first part of this book really dragged it down. I still highly recommend it for any serious fan of comedy. He really was the best.
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dion Graham was an excellent choice for this audiobook. His delivery and impersonations were pretty wonderful. The book itself looks at the serious societal complexities that enabled Richard Pryor to become an icon. But it was his genius that made him great and his story tragic. Oddly, the authors chose to compare Pryor to Hurricane Katrina in the epilogue.
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, nonfiction
I chose this to get a better understanding of how contemporary humor evolved, and certainly got that. Also got a good look at a very troubled genius. A bit shorter would have made it a bit better for me.
Janet Lovestodance
Oct 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very Insightful view on one of the best stand up comedians.
Oct 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
I opened this because one of the authors, Joe Henry, is one of my favorite musicians. By the time I was finished, all I wanted to listen to was old Richard Pryor albums. Which I'm doing right now.
Craig Pittman
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it
What a fascinating character Richard Pryor was -- a brilliant comedian, a stone-cold junkie, a capable actor, a terrible husband and father, a man who forever altered the course of American society and language and yet never believed himself of any value at all.

This book by brothers David and Joe Henry attempts to convey Pryor's life and genius in a warts-and-all style, and largely succeeds in doing so. But the book is marred by their attempts at overwriting the story, producing litt
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a fan, I knew Richard Pryor from his acting with Gene Wilder, his writing with Mel Brooks, Superman 3, and, of course, a few, late career, edited stand up routines. This is to say, being born in the 1980s, I did not know the genius of Richard Pryor much at all. This book changed that to a high degree, showing a tragic genius and a comic bully - or however you want to combine those words- a tragic bully? Fitting at times. A genius comic? Well, obviously. All combinations work. His humanity is ...more
Dec 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Wow! That N----r truly was crazy, to borrow from the title of one of his best albums. And this understanding and appreciation for the lonely, pained soul behind the mercurial personna is the greatest contribution of this book. It is a page-turning, gripping account of the often larger-than-life persona journey of Richard Pryor, arguably the most gifted comic artist of all time.

As is typical of a (good) biography, this one takes you across the whole arc of Richard's career. (I use his
Ann Colette
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
The best biographies are not just accounts of an extraordinary life, but works of social history. Furious Cool succeeds in both respects. The authors don't feign neutrality on the subject – they're unabashed fans of Pryor, whose astonishing talents and harrowing life are interesting enough on their own. Following along his artistic evolution, his trailblazing work as a black entertainer emerging in the 1970s, his eventual downward spiral, and the torment he inflicted on himself and others along ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Conceptually, this book is great--rather than a cradle-to-grave biography of Pryor, it's an examination of how someone like Pryor came to exist, addressing race within modern comedic history.

But as a book itself, it's incredibly flawed. It jumps around way too haphazardly to be written off as paralleling how Pryor himself spoke--I'm sorry, two writers who made two major errors in ONE PARAGRAPH alone (mistaking Jim Belushi for John, and misspelling Jane Curtin's name) are not clever enough to ha
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David Henry is a screenwriter, and his brother Joe Henry is a songwriter/singer as well as a music producer. They first discovered Richard Pryor when they were young, becoming instant fans, and then later they were able to meet the man and to spend time with him. They set out initially to write a screenplay for a projected film; fortunately, they also wrote a biography. Furious Cool is their first ...more
“Rain Pryor was born July 16, 1969. Richard and” 0 likes
“popular TV sitcoms sprang up, each a variation on a single theme: something alien is close and secretly among us, and one person is burdened with protecting all others from the unspeakable truth of their presence and power: My Favorite Martian, My Mother the Car, I Dream of Jeannie, The Munsters, Mister Ed, Bewitched—they all pointed to the growing anxiety of middle-class whites that nothing was as it appeared,” 0 likes
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