Shooting Fish in a Barrel of Laughs

“In his mature years, he seems to have pretty much lived on cocaine and Courvoisier. Cocaine is notorious for promoting violence. Whatever he did for black people, Pryor regularly beat up women … In a fight with a night clerk at his apartment building, he put out the man’s left eye. Another time, his wife, hearing gunshots, ran to their bedroom and found him lying in the darkness with water and glass and little, struggling fish all over the floor. The man had actually shot his fish tank.” On the tenth anniversary of his death, The New Yorker’s Joan Acocella reflects on Richard Pryor’s path to becoming Richard Pryor.

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