Comedian Richard Pryor once confessed that he started his career by imitating Bill Cosby. But he said he knew his days of trying to be as slick and colorless as Cosby were numbered — there was a world of junkies and winos, pool hustlers and prostitutes inside his head, and all of them were screaming to get out.
As he developed those voices, he became one of the most influential comics in the country. But as his fame grew, so did his troubles — including a string of stormy marriages, a heart attack, and a cocaine addiction. In 1980, he set himself on fire while he was high, burning more than 50 percent of his body.
It all became material for his comedy. But his performing career has been virtually ended by multiple sclerosis, which was diagnosed in 1986.
This interview originally aired on May 22, 1995.