Paperback Hard Cover eBook


On sale date: 10-21-2014

PAGES: 320

TRIM SIZE: 5.5 x 8.25

ISBN: 978-1-61620-447-1

LIST PRICE: $16.95


ISBN: 978-1-61620-078-7

LIST PRICE: $25.95


ISBN: 978-1-61620-271-2

LIST PRICE: $25.95

“It’s been a struggle for me because I had a chance to be white and refused.” —Richard Pryor

Richard Pryor was arguably the single most influential performer of the second half of the twentieth century, and certainly he was the most successful black actor/comedian ever. Controversial and somewhat enigmatic in his lifetime, Pryor’s performances opened up a new world of possibilities, merging fantasy with angry reality in a way that wasn’t just new—it was heretofore unthinkable.

“It’s so much easier for me to talk about my life in front of two thousand people than it is one-to-one. I’m a real defensive person, because if you were sensitive in my neighborhood, you were something to eat,” Pryor said.

His childhood in Peoria, Illinois, was spent just trying to survive. Yet the culture into which Richard Pryor was born—his mother was a prostitute; his grandmother ran the brothel—helped him evolve into one of the most  innovative and outspoken performers ever, a man who attracted admiration and anger in equal parts. Both a brilliant comedian and a very astute judge of what he could get away with, Pryor was always pushing the envelope, combining anger and pathos, outrage and humor, into an art form, laying the groundwork for the generations of comedians who followed, including such outstanding performers as Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K.

Now, in this groundbreaking and revelatory work, David and Joe Henry bring him to life both as a man and as an artist, providing an in-depth appreciation of his talent and his lasting influence, as well as an insightful examination of the world he lived in and the influences that shaped both his persona and his art.


“Richard Pryor was chain lightning to everything around him. He shocked the world through with human electricity. He blew all our comfortable balance to hell. And Furious Cool captures it brilliantly . . . Part memoir, part biography, part poem, part history, part ballad, it manages to sing a wakesong for an incredible American.” —Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin

"An addictively readable study of the path of this outsized talent . . . [A] blazing entertainment history to authoritative meditation on culture.” Esquire

“The flames of genius burn bright and all too often too briefly. Incendiary, foulmouthed comic icon Richard Pryor changed the face of comedy and possessed, as biographers David and Joe Henry put it, a Furious Cool.” Vanity Fair

Meet the authors

David Henry is a screenwriter, and his brother Joe Henry is a songwriter/singer as well as a music producer. They first discovered Richard Pryor when they were young, becoming instant fans, and then later they were able to meet the man and to spend time with him. They set out initially to write a screenplay for a projected film; fortunately, they also wrote a biography. Furious Cool is their first book.

Joe Henry’s new album, Invisible Hour, is available now.

Read an excerpt

Watch the video