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May 2006

by Philip Bennett

Some of you reading this may have a problem with the above title. Possibly because we remember the late Mr. Pryor before the Multiple Sclerosis, back when he was one of the most physical of performers. Some of you may actually equate the value of his life with that physicality.

Greg Tate, in an article published in the December 14, 2005, issue of the Village Voice did just that. As he opined: "Richard Pryor really was ready to die. When I interviewed him a few years ago, he told me what bothered him the most about his MS was not being able to jump around like he used to, reminding us that this most verbal of men was also as physically comedic as Chaplin. For those reasons Pryor's demise was a sweet release, a right fitting and proper breaking on through to that other side."

Sadly, the Voice published only one letter in the next issue referring to this "he's-better-off-dead" junk. And that was to agree with Mr. Tate, that "Pryor has been waiting to rest." [December 20, 2005]

It would have been useful to Mr. Tate and Ms. Scott, the letter-writer, if they had visited Mr. Pryor's website ( A year's worth of Mr. Pryor's final postings are still up, and there is not the slightest dram of ready-to-die in anything he wrote. He remained passionate about animal rights, the war and nurturing the next generation of comedians.

Obviously Mr. Tate never visited that site (I found it after a simple Google-search). Nor did he interview Mr. Pryor's family. Was it because of deadline pressures? Or maybe the truth can often be too inconvenient to one's preconceived notions?

Daryl "Chill" Mitchell, a veteran actor and rap artist who recently became a wheelchair-user, understands these notions. As he told the New York Post not long ago, he'd been fighting his entire professional life to be accepted as a black actor. Now he must also struggle the same struggle as a disabled actor.

For those of you who believe Mr. Pryor was indeed ready to die, or even that he should have died sooner, you're the reason the fight must continue.