If I Stop, I'll Die (Paperback)

The Comedy and Tragedy of Richard Pryor

By John A. Williams, Dennis A. Wiliams

Da Capo Press, 9781560259183, 336pp.

Publication Date: January 1, 2007

List Price: 15.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Though it is hard to imagine what America will be like now that Richard Pryor has passed away, it would be harder to imagine life if there had never been a Pryor, teaching us to laugh, and by laughing, to see. In the 1960s, when many black performers were trying to open the color barrier, comedian Richard Pryor was slamming into it with a vengeance. Employing the language and attitude of the black ghetto, he assaulted racism in comic routines that were both outrageous and screamingly funny. If I Stop, I'll Die examines the comedian's life and humor which not only reveals details of Pryor's troubled but briliant career, but also places these events within the context that shaped Pryor's outlook, personality, and opportunities. It captures the irony that pervaded his life and career: how he could present brilliantly universal material from such a militantly black perspective; how the powers of Hollywood could force him to portray on film the very racial caricatures that he lampooned on stage; how he could publicly flaunt his private exploits, with embellished comedic versions of his drug use, sexual adventures and bursts of violence, while fiercely protecting the real facts behind such episodes.

About the Author

John A. Williams has been descirbed by the New York Times Book Review as one of the most important writers of American fiction. He has authored twelve critically acclaimed novels, such as The Man Who Cried I Am, Sons of Darkness, Captain Blackman, Jacob's Ladder and Clifford's Blues. Along with his works of fiction, Williams has also written several non-fiction books, among them, The Most Native of Sons: A Biography of Richard Wright. Williams is a retired Professor of English at the Newark campus of Rutgers University. Dennis A. Williams is a former Newsweek reporter and editor whose work has appeared in Essence, Emerge, The Village Voice and Black Scholar. His first novel, Crossover, was published in 1992. William currently teaches English at Georgetown University.