Daughter Of The Crazy One
By Belinda Trotter-James
Most children of famous entertainers are kept invisible from the curious eyes of the public. The world can look pretty cruel through the eyes of a child watching a photographer almost break his neck to get a photograph of a celebrity’s child. Richard Pryor was one of those entertainers who kept his children invisible. Of course fanatics probably could tell you all about the iconic comedienne along with his personal life and I’m sure the children did make an appearance with their father here and there. However, the typical fan only wanted Richard to make them laugh. Now that he is no longer with us on this earth, we look to the children to carry on the legacy. In a one woman play Richard Pryor’s baby girl takes the stage with sheer genius as she lets us into her world, through her eyes in a moment in time in the early years as a biracial child invisible to her father’s fans.
A child of a famous entertainer may sometimes be looked upon to do the same thing the same way like their famous parents. I asked Rain if people looked to her to be like her father. "No, I think they assume I’m like him and then they realize that there are similarities but she's different; I’m my own person. I'm a woman first of all so that definitely blows them away”, says Rain.
In her own right Rain Pryor is a director, actor, producer, educator, mother and standup comedian. She definitely is her father’s child. What advice did Richard give to her about being a woman in the business that we call entertainment? She replied, "He told me to be honest and to stick to my guns. Be honest to myself in everything that I do. That taught me a lot because although it may seem at times like the road really gets slow and treacherous, integrity is so important. It might take me longer to get to the destination, but I preferred it that way.”
Rain wrote a book entitled Jokes My Father Never Taught Me, subtitle: Life, Love and Loss with Richard Pryor. "I started writing the book before he passed and then the book came out a year after he passed and it never hit the urban markets”, says Rain. Since the book never reached the urban market, she brought a few copies from her publisher and did it over herself.
“First of all I was tricked into doing it. I never wanted to do stand up. My dad always wanted me to do it and I said to him, 'No, you're Richard Pryor that's ridiculous. I will act, I will sing, I will dance and I will tell jokes in between all of that, but I will not do stand-up.’ Then one night about six years ago after doing my solo show many times, everyone would always tell me that I am doing stand up in my solo show. So friend of mine asked me to open for them and just do five minutes of my solo show. Then as I went onstage my father whispered to me, ‘Now do five minutes of standup’ and I've been doing it ever since."
That’s right folks; she nailed it in her own comedic, original way. Richard threw his daughter into the water and she swam like the pro she was born to be. They tapped into her talent and Rain found out she was good. "There are moments when you're not so good and I've had those moments. I was at a place where I was working things out. Now I'm at the point where I am the headliner and I do very well. I just keep working on more material. I work on new material all the time by doing it different ways to see what works. It's a constant grind."
Rain explain that it's a process developing new material. Comedians would go to the small venues and work it out. When they work out new material sometimes they do hear crickets in the audience. Sometimes the audience don’t get the jokes and it happens to the best of them. "Sometimes you just get that feeling from the audience and it's a feeling that you don't want to get", says Rain. She remembered watching comedians like Chris rock and Tracy Morgan work out their material and not get the laugh and then that's when you realize it's a work in progress. Rain explained, “They're working on a show; they're working to get to that point. The people you see in those clubs are all working out materials so that when you see them on the road, it's a complete show. The process that goes into it is not always great; you get great. They get the laugh and it gets good.”
Every comedian has their own style and way of doing things to get the audience on the same page. "I’m doing something different”, begins Rain. “I’m not doing hip-hop humor, I’m not doing what I call drop-it-like-it's-hot humor. It's not who I am; it's not what my destiny is about. I'm just trying to be my own person.”
There is one thing you can't buy in the entertainment business and that's the critics view on your work. The New York Times loved Rain's one woman show entitled Fried Chicken And Latkes. It's a look into a moment in her life. What makes one want to do a one woman show? It takes something that happens in one's life to plant the seed to allow a show like this to grow. "The inspiration came from countless of auditions where I was getting roles here and not getting roles there and then one day my mentor, Melvin Van People's said to me, ‘If you want something to happen then, create it for yourself.’ So, I started to write the show. When I performed it the first time, I thought I wrote a drama but people laughed and I thought, ‘Oh my God I wrote a comedy! My life to them is funny.’ That's when I knew I had something there. It's been a wonderful train ride. It's been something that I've been working on for the last 15 years and it has completely evolved to what you see off-Broadway. Now my goal is to take it to Broadway for a limited run.
In order to get her show to Broadway Rain has to come up with a lot of cash which should be no problem for the legacy of Richard Pryor. Fans definitely want to see Mr. Pryor’s baby girl on stage to hear about her life growing up as Richard Pryor's little girl. Rain is very careful not to shout from the rooftops that Richard Pryor is her father in order to open up doors, however it is what it is. If that's the door that she has to open, then so be it. "There is something to be said about recognizing that he's my dad and to honor that Legacy by kind of being on my own”, explains Rain. “My dad was really about that. I had regular jobs growing up, we had to clean our rooms and we had to learn how to cook. He was about making you do it on your own. He never gave a hand out. However he did take us shopping or if we ever needed money of course he would give it because he was that type of dad. However he really was about instilling in us that you need to make it on your own if you're going to make it. He wanted to see if you had the guts."
In seeing Rains perspective on how she was raised by her father I see that we, the audience, look at Richard Pryor as this major entertainer and she looks at him as just her dad and that's why she or probably many other children of entertainers do not raise the flag of who they are all the time. Some of them use it only when necessary and they should. It's their right; it's their legacy. However once they get through the door, its show time! "In my mind I guess this is why I have not connected the two together. I look at him as my dad. I don't look at him as Richard Pryor like everyone else sees him. The last thing on my mind is to push his name because he's my dad. When you can make it on your own, that says a lot about you.”Rain's documentary, That Daughter’s Crazy, is a play on the words from one of her father's albums, That Ni**er’s Crazy which is circulating through the film festival circuit and will be in Chicago on August 15 and 16. It was definitely a labor of love that we worked on for the last year and it's finally being shown. It's not my dad’s story; it’s my story and what it was like to grow up a Black, Jewish girl via the entertainment business.
At this time in her life she is very happy. She's a mom, who has a beautiful baby girl who did give her an indication on what she would like to do when she grows up. “She told me she wants to be a chef and open a restaurant when she grows up and I said, ‘Wow, you are my Princess’. She has an easy bake oven and she's determined to help out in the kitchen. She also takes dance classes. After one of her recitals she said to me, ‘Mommy I don't know if I really want to do this.’ I replied, ‘You don't have to do it. You can be whatever you want to be. Do you know what you want?’ She said, ‘Yes, I think I want to be a chef. I think I want to have my own restaurant,’ and I said, “Okay.”
Aside from being a mommy she has a fantastic boyfriend in her life, really good business relationships, great friendships and an awareness that when something doesn't feel right she can sense it quicker than she could in the past. She revealed that she just got rid of some people in her life that did not feel right. “I just got rid of someone that I worked with for a long time because they stole money from me. They took it at a time when I really could've used it. It's funny that instead of me harboring feelings of being angry, upset or bitter... I don't know that I'm bitter, but I am angry. I'm at a different place in my life now where I feel sad for them. I feel sad for someone that has to do that to another human being. I think my spiritual path is so strong because I practice an African Nigerian tradition called Yuruba. Being on a path where you're connected spiritually definitely helps you get through life’s challenges.”
I wish more people knew how much being spiritually connected really strengthens you and gets you through some of life's challenges. When things happen to us and we are asked to forgive and send love and light to that person, however it's a challenge for some to do that.
"That's a good point because I think most people misconstrue why you need to forgive. People have to understand that forgiveness is not for the person; it's for you. There are several levels of forgiveness and it doesn't mean that you forgot the incident or the transgression. It just means that I understand you are sick, incapable and lousy. That's where they are, that's what they had to do and that's how I feel about the people that hurt me. That's the sick world they're living in. I wouldn't want to live in that world where I would have to take from someone else, take a life from someone else or would take money from someone else. That's their world and their Karma to deal with and I still have to continue on with my right path which is to be in and of integrity at all times no matter what.”
The world is a complex place of challenges, tests, obstacles, problems and pain. However, you don’t have to live in that world if you don’t want. (That’s another topic.) There is always light at the end of the tunnel full of love, laughter, fun, light, joy, happiness and abundance beyond your wildest dreams. Hang on to that thought and watch what happens. On that note… you can continue having conversations with Rain on Twitter, check out her website at http://www.rainpryor.com and definitely see her in action in her one woman show and on the comedy stage.