Richard Pryor, the most famous person from my hometown, died today. There had been a big debate about whether to name a street after him. Finally they agreed to, and I’m glad. In almost every interview with comedians, they mention Richard Pryor as a huge influence. His profanity and rough language were groundbreaking, you could say, but often comedians talked more about how Pryor helped them realize they could use their own lives and experiences -- especially urban, ethnic experiences -- as material.
For a Midwestern place, Peoria launched some very controversial figures, including Betty Friedan and Sam Kinison. (Not so your host, Mapgirl -- a rather hidebound character.) One of the most beautiful schools in Peoria is where Richard Pryor went to elementary school, and I used to go through the part of town where he grew up. He put us on the map for reasons that displeased a lot of people, and he did a lot of things that disappointed me. But I think I’ll rent “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling,” just to see a few scenes from those early days in the area where Richard Pryor Street is now.