Pryor Experience

If you're half Jewish and half black, that probably qualifies you as somewhat "unique." How about if your Jewish mother was a go-go-dancing activist and your black father was Richard Pryor? Dang, you deserve your own show.

Hence Rain Pryor's Fried Chicken and Latkas, a one-woman cabaret show about her blended family and heritage, which she'll be performing this weekend at Houston's Jewish Community Center. In the show, Pryor, known for her television roles on Head of the Class and Rude Awakening, reenacts vignettes from her life. She takes on the roles of friends and family members -- including her famous father -- and rounds out the monologue with musical numbers.

The actress describes her show as "John Leguizamo meets Bette Midler," alluding to its variegated format and emphasis on cathartic, shameless comedy. (Can anything involving "Yiddishkeit rap" be subtle?)

And indeed, subtlety has never been a Pryor specialty. Most people couldn't live as outrageous a life as Richard Pryor if they tried. He grew up in a whorehouse, free-based cocaine regularly and at one point doused himself in cognac and lit his clothes on fire. Pryor's tumultuous circumstances produced his brazen, offensive and extremely popular sense of humor. The tragic comedian is known as one of the funniest men of all time.

In spite of her father's self-destructive tendencies, limited availability and habitual remarrying, Rain Pryor comes across as extremely affectionate toward her "daddy." She is proud when people draw parallels between them -- especially when they say, "You say 'motherfucker' like only a Pryor can." But Rain isn't Richard; her show is about herself. "I think I have developed my own sense of humor," she says.

Pryor is working on bringing Fried Chicken and Latkas to an off-Broadway theater, and she may eventually turn it into a movie. But for the moment, she's happy to relish in simply being understood -- an unexpected side effect of telling her unorthodox tale. "I've created a piece that people can relate to," she says, "and I just think, "Wow! Really? Me?"

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Julia Ramey