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Comedian Richard Pryor Dead at 65

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Dec 12, 2005 | 6:16am EST

Legendary funnyman Richard Pryor, whose groundbreaking comedy made him one of the most famous comedians of his day, died of a heart attack Saturday, The Associated Press reports. He was 65.

Pryor died shortly before 8 a.m. after being taken to a hospital from his home in the San Fernando Valley, his business manager, Karen Finch, told AP. He had been ill for years with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system.

"We loved him and will miss you," his ex-wife, Flynn Pryor, said from her Florida home.

Living life close to the edge, Pryor's comedy was considered controversial at times, especially for his fond use of profanity, but the comedian gained a huge following with his spot-on routines. He also battled drug and alcohol addictions for years. And even after he nearly lost his life in 1980 when he caught on fire while freebasing cocaine, he incorporated the ordeal into his stand-up. 

Pryor also starred in a series of hit comedies and concert films in the '70s and '80s, making him one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood. His films included Stir Crazy, Silver StreakWhich Way Is Up? and Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip.

Pryor was also known for breaking down racial inequalities with his comedy. He once marveled "that I live in racist America and I'm uneducated, yet a lot of people love me and like what I do, and I can make a living from it. You can't do much better than that."

His audacious style influenced generations of stand-up artists, including Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Robin Williams and David Letterman.

Pryor's daughter, actress Rain Pryor, told the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this year her father always "put his life right out there for you to look at. I took that approach because I saw how well audiences respond to it. I try to make you laugh at life."

Pryor was married six times. His children include sons Richard and Steven, and daughters Elizabeth, Rain and Renee.

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