Richard Pryor Net Worth at Death – Salary, Income, Earnings

Richard Pryor Net Worth 

Richard Pryor had an estimated net worth of $40 million at death. Richard Pryor was a groundbreaking African American comedian and one of the top entertainers of the 1970s and 1980s. He earned most of his income from his comedy shows and movies. 

Richard Pryor, who was a class clown in school and a community theater actor in his teens, went on to become a successful stand-up comedian, television writer, and movie actor, appearing in films such as Stir Crazy and Greased Lightning.

Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986, but he continued to perform for several years after that. In 2005, he died of a heart attack.

To calculate the net worth of Richard Pryor, subtract all his liabilities from his total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity he has in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as personal loans and mortgages, are included in total liabilities.

Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:

Name: Richard Pryor
Net Worth: $40 Million
Monthly Salary: $300 Thousand
Annual Income: $5 Million
Source of Wealth: Comedian, Actor, Screenwriter, Film Producer, Writer, Television producer

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Early Life

Pryor was born in Peoria, Illinois, on December 1, 1940. His mother reportedly worked as a prostitute, and his father was a bartender and boxer who served in the military during WWII. His parents married when he was three years old, but their marriage did not last.

Pryor spent much of his childhood in the care of his grandmother, who ran a brothel. According to his official website, he was also abused sexually as a child. Pryor found solace in going to the movies to escape the grim reality of his life.

Pryor played the role of the class clown in school. He discovered acting in his early adolescence. Juliette Whittaker, the director of a local community center, cast Pryor in a production of Rumpelstiltskin because he was a natural performer. She believed in his abilities and supported him over the years.

After being expelled from school at the age of 14, Pryor worked a variety of jobs before joining the military in 1958. He was only in the army for two years before being discharged for fighting with another soldier.

Stand-Up Comic

Pryor married Patricia Price in 1960 after returning home. Before divorcing, the couple had one child together. Pryor pursued a career as an entertainer after his marriage ended. He found work as a stand-up comic all over the Midwest, performing in African American clubs in places like East St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

Pryor relocated to New York City in 1963. He made his television debut the following year on the variety show On Broadway Tonight. Guest appearances on The Merv Griffin Show and The Ed Sullivan Show followed. His act was inspired by two African American comedians he admired at the time: Bill Cosby and Dick Gregory.

Pryor had landed a few small parts on the big screen by the late 1960s, appearing in The Busy Body (1967) and Wild in the Streets (1968). (1968). Around the same time, he released his first self-titled comedy album.

Pryor even tried marriage again, marrying Shelly Bonus in 1967. Before divorcing in 1969, the couple had one child together, a daughter named Elizabeth.

Pryor’s stand-up comedy act toured extensively. When he was in Las Vegas, he was Bobby Darin’s opening act at the Flamingo Hotel. In the late 1960s, he had an interesting career turning point while playing at the Aladdin.

Pryor walked off stage and took a break from stand-up because he was tired of the constraints and limitations on his material. He went into hiding in Berkeley, California, where he met with a number of counterculture figures, including Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton.

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Mainstream Success

Pryor was a successful actor and comedian in the early 1970s. He received positive feedback for his supporting role in Diana Ross’s Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues (1972).

For his work on The Lily Tomlin Show, he received his first Emmy Award nomination (outstanding writing achievement in comedy, variety) in 1973. Pryor won his first Emmy (best writing in comedy, variety) the following year for another collaboration with Lily Tomlin: the comedy special Lily (1973).

Pryor also contributed to shows like The Flip Wilson Show and Sanford and Son, both of which starred comedian Redd Foxx.

Richard Pryor Movies

Pryor’s career flourished further when he collaborated with Mel Brooks on the screenplay for the western spoof Blazing Saddles (1974). His own work was also generating a lot of interest. Despite its X-rated content, his third comedy album sold extremely well and earned him a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording in 1974, a feat he repeated the following two years.

Pryor’s comedy, which relied on situational and character-driven humor rather than straightforward jokes, captivated audiences of all races. He made fun of the white establishment and looked into the racial divide. In one scene, Pryor described how the horror film The Exorcist would have been different if it had featured an African American family instead of a white one.

By the late 1970s, Pryor had established himself as a successful film actor. He co-starred in the 1976 box office smash Silver Streak with Gene Wilder and Jill Clayburgh. In Greased Lightning (1977), Pryor played the first African American stock car racing champion alongside Beau Bridges and Pam Grier.

He and Grier had an on-again, off-again relationship before Pryor married his third wife, Deborah McGuire, in 1977. In 1979, they divorced.

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Troubled Personal Life

Pryor had a long history of substance abuse and turbulent relationships both on and off the set. In the early 1970s, he was charged with failing to file tax returns from 1967 to 1970.

Pryor was arrested again in 1978 after shooting his estranged wife’s car. He was sentenced to probation, fined, and ordered to seek psychiatric treatment as well as make restitution.

Pryor’s health began to deteriorate, and he had his first heart attack in 1978. Following his health crisis, Pryor began work on what many critics consider to be his best performance.

Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979) received widespread acclaim and sold out many urban movie theaters. That year, Pryor visited Kenya and announced that he would no longer use the n-word in his act.

Pryor and Wilder reunited for the popular crime comedy Stir Crazy (1980), directed by Sidney Poitier. The film was a box office hit, grossing more than $100 million.

Freebasing Incident

The actor’s drug use, however, spiraled out of control the following year. In June 1980, after several days of freebasing cocaine, he attempted suicide by setting himself on fire. It was initially reported as an accident, but he later admitted in his autobiography that he did it on purpose while under the influence of drugs.

Pryor had third-degree burns on more than half of his body. Pryor, true to his comic style, found humor in his own suffering: “You know what I noticed? People will move out of your way if you run down the street on fire.”

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Comeback

Pryor returned to stand-up and acting after a lengthy recovery. He went on to win two more Grammys for Best Comedy Recording, for Rev. Du Rite in 1981 and Live on the Sunset Strip in 1982. The concert film Live on the Sunset Strip was released the same year.

Pryor also appeared in several films, including Margo Kidder’s Some Kind of Hero (1982) and Jackie Gleason’s The Toy (1982). Pryor married Jennifer Lee for the fourth time in 1981, but the couple divorced the following year.

Pryor was one of the highest-paid African American actors in 1983. He reportedly earned more than the film’s star, Christopher Reeve, for his role as an evil henchman in Superman III.

For another significant project from this era, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, he drew on his own life experience (1986). He portrayed a popular stand-up comic who reflects on his life while recovering in a hospital after suffering serious burns in a drug-related incident in the autobiographical film.

Pryor was briefly married to actress Flynn BeLaine around this time. (The couple had another brief marriage attempt in the early 1990s.)

Later Years

Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease, in 1986. He tried hard to stay active, co-starring with Eddie Murphy and Red Foxx in the films Critical Condition (1987), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Harlem Nights (1989).

Pryor, who was once a kinetic figure, was confined to a wheelchair by the early 1990s. Nonetheless, he continued to do stand-up and act.

When his autobiography Pryor Convictions: And Other Life Sentences was released in 1995, it received critical acclaim. That same year, he co-starred with daughter Rain in an episode of the medical drama Chicago Hope as a man with multiple sclerosis. David Lynch’s Lost Highway was his most recent film appearance (1997).

In 1998, Pryor became the first person to receive the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. “I am proud that, like Mark Twain, I have been able to use humor to lessen people’s hatred,” he said at the time.

Pryor remarried Jennifer Lee in 2001. He spent his final years in California with her. Outside of the stage, Pryor was an animal rights activist who opposed animal testing. He founded Pryor’s Planet, an animal charity.

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Death and Legacy

Pryor died of a heart attack on December 10, 2005, in a hospital in the Los Angeles area.

He paved the way for African American comedians like Murphy and Chris Rock to make their mark by providing audiences with both hilarious and moving performances.

“Pryor started it all; he laid the groundwork for Black comedians’ progressive thinking, unlocking that irreverent style,” comedian and filmmaker Keenen Ivory Wayans told The New York Times.

In 2016, it was revealed that Tracy Morgan was in talks to star in a Pryor biopic, with Lee Daniels on board to direct.

Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee confirmed that tidbit to TMZ two years later, after Quincy Jones raised eyebrows by telling Vulture that Pryor had slept with actor Marlon Brando. She explained that Pryor was open about his bisexuality, which he wrote about in diaries that she hoped to publish.

Further Reading

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