Richard Pryor

Best known for his profanity-spiked stand-up comedy, Richard Pryor was born into poverty Dec. 1, 1940, in Peoria, Ill. At 14, he quit high school and later signed up for a two-year hitch in the Army, where he began honing his innate comic talent in amateur shows.

Pryor worked the nightclub circuit in the early 1960s and by '63 was laying 'em in the aisles in New York City with scathing but insightful routines lampooning everything from racism to the drug culture. Gigs on TV-variety programs garnered him nationwide exposure and in time led to film parts and starring roles in two television series.

Pryor's noteworthy movies include Lady Sings the Blues (1972), The Wiz (1978), The Toy (1982) and memorable pairings with Gene Wilder in Silver Streak (1976) and Stir Crazy (1980). Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986, Pryor retired from performing in the 1990s. He died Dec. 10, 2005.