Comedian Richard Pryor broke countless racial boundaries in film and television, all by doing what great funny people do best: making the biggest jokes about himself. ”Richard’s personal [life] was his art,” says Jennifer Lee Pryor, who was married to Pryor at the time of his death from a heart attack in 2005 following a long struggle with multiple sclerosis. ”If he had a fight with me, he was on stage talking about it the next night. It was all grist for the mill.” The Showtime documentary Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic (debuting May 31 at 9 p.m.) tracks his evolution as an artist and explores how high-profile incidents both positive (his trips to Africa) and negative (his suicide attempt via self-immolation) influenced his work on stage and screen. Those stories are told via a steady stream of testimonials from friends and collaborators like Robin Williams, Jesse Jackson, and Lily Tomlin, as well as admirers like Dave Chappelle, George Lopez, and Whoopi Goldberg.
In addition to Omit the Logic, Pryor’s comedic genius will be on display in the form of a new seven-CD, two-DVD box set of stand-up called No Pryor Restraint, which goes on sale June 11. ”We found two hours of unreleased material in my house,” says Lee Pryor, noting that the collection will span nearly three decades and include a 1992 performance that ended up being one of his final stand-up appearances. Lee Pryor has also started a new push in her quest to develop a biopic on her husband’s life; director Bill Condon (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) had been attached to the project for years, but in March actor-director Forest Whitaker took over as producer. ”We are currently talking to writers and developing a script,” she says. ”There was a script years ago with Bill Condon, but we’re shelving that and basing a script around Richard’s diaries.” The casting process is far in the future, but Lee Pryor says there is at least one actor not in the running. ”Marlon Wayans wanted to do it, and he has put that out there repeatedly. With all due respect to Marlon, I think it was probably a mistake, because he’s not going to play Richard.” She notes that she saw Whitaker-produced Sundance indie Fruitvale and was impressed with its star, Michael B. Jordan. ”He’s fabulous. I would like somebody [relatively unknown] who doesn’t come with any baggage — because let’s face it, Richard has enough.”