Rain Pryor: Shalom, My Brothers

Rain Pryor AP / CBS

Rain Pryor took center stage in the place that launched her father, Richard Pryor, into the comedy stratosphere – The Comedy Store.

"I mean, here I am at the Comedy Store! On the very stage, in the very place that history was created by my father ... Richard Pryor," says Rain Pryor. "I used to sleep in booths out here."

The Comedy Story is now a door to her future, as CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports.

"Is it intimidating at all? Of course it is," she says. "It's intimidating, because I know, without a doubt, there's someone who's thinking they're coming to see me, but they're really coming to see my dad … They better go rent a video, because this ain't my daddy's standup."

It's her show, "Fried Chicken and Latkes." Rain has been polishing and performing it in theaters around Los Angeles. It's about her life as the conflicted daughter of a celebrated black father and a Jewish mother.

"So there I was, this black and Jewish kid growing up in Beverly Hills, which meant I was proud, but felt so guilty for it," she laughs from the stage.

She says she has wanted to do the show for the last decade, but she wasn't ready until now.

"I wrote this show in three-and-a-half weeks, you know, and it was out and it was done," she remembers.

Vivid characters came pouring out as a result. She portrays white teenager Samantha:

"Oh, my God, Rain. Your hair is soooo big! Oh, I can barely see the mirror through your big hair! Like what do you have in there, anyway? You are soooo Afro-sheen Barbie!"

Like a chameleon, Rain changes into Wanita:

"As a matter of fact, girl didn't know she was black until she met me. And she was always going out with white boys. But she did date a black boy like, what? Once. And he wasn't all the way black. He was like -- blackinese."

"There's not a thing about her that doesn't work," says actor/director Carl Reiner. "She sings, she moves, she does humor. She knows who she is."

Rain fills the stage with characters who filled her life, such as her Jewish grandmother:

"Why do we light the Friday night Shaboos candles? We do this to welcome in the weekend by reflecting back on what we have done during the week. But we try not to reflect too hard, because that's why we become depressed."

Pryor also transforms into "Mama," her father's grandmother:

"Rain was born on her father's side to a prestigious line of pimps, madams and prostitutes. See, Richard Pryor is a fine and generous man. You can ask any hooker."

And woven throughout the show is Rain's complex relationship with her father.

"Papa, can you hear me? Papa, can you see me? See me? He barely even knew me. He was too busy making movies and [mimics smoking] had way too much on his mind," she says in her act.

In her work and her life, she has had to come to terms with Richard Pryor, the man the world knows as a tragic comic genius.

Rain knows all about his genius and his flaws: his womanizing and, as she told Sunday Morning's Russ Mitchell in 1995, his drugs.
"It was really Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When he wasn't experimenting with chemicals, he was there. When he was, it was another -- it was tough," she said in the interview.

It was also tough on her strong-willed mother, who raised Rain after Richard Pryor left them.

In "Fried Chicken and Latkes," she remembers her mother saying:
"Rain, take that plastic bag off your head! This won't bring your father to visit. You know why, Rain? He doesn't care, Rain! He doesn't care! When he left us and we went on welfare, it was me who got us off, Rain! I am the black man in your life, Rain."

She says she talks about some very painful things in her life because life is painful.

"I've survived a lot of stuff that I think someone of 34 shouldn't have to really survive, but I survived it, and I think with that, there comes a freedom," she says.

It's that freedom to make comedy out of her own battle with drugs and alcohol, her string of failed romances and her father's succession of wives.
The show is what she's always dreamed of doing.

"Out of the womb, the day I was given the rainbow-colored Afro-wig, the diva in me came out," she laughs.

She found work early as a regular on the sitcom "Head of the Class" and on stage in the musical "Sisterella."

But even as she played a lesbian junkie on Showtime's "Rude Awakening," Hollywood told her she wasn't black enough, she wasn't white enough, she wasn't pretty enough.

"Then I wasn't working at all and it was really hard for me, because for years after that, all I heard was, 'Yeah, she's talented, but God, she's ugly,'" remembers Pryor.

Casting agents just couldn't figure her out. Now she's finding herself, a process that may have begun with her father's illness. She took questions after one performance.

"When he got sick with multiple sclerosis, I think it put everything to me into perspective. I think there comes a place where you really have to have peace," she says.

Accepting her father, she came to accept herself. In the mid-'90s, they even played father and daughter in a "Chicago Hope" episode about M.S.
By her 2002 wedding, he couldn't walk her down the aisle, but he was there. And Rain Pryor's mother, Shelly Bonis (former hippie and civil rights advocate), is out advocating for her daughter. Bonis is out in the streets and fairs giving people cards about her daughter's play.

Elizabeth Pryor -- Richard other half-Jewish daughter from another marriage -- came to see Rain's show. And, the two have fallen in love.

"I think I didn't realize there was only one other black Jew who was Richard Pryor's daughter, and that was my sister," says Elizabeth Pryor. "When I saw 'Fried Chicken and Latkes,' I thought 'Black, Jew, Richard Pryor's daughter -- oh, my God! We have a lot in common!'"

But Rain's personal story, which she considered so idiosyncratic and so outrageous, seems to have something to say to most everyone who comes through the door.

Now clean and sober, married, happy and with plans for Broadway, Rain's past is powering her into the future.

"Because I'm standing on my own two feet and I have become Rain, I am comfortable with being a Pryor," she says. "I feel it's my right, it's my legacy. What I'm doing up there on that stage is the real tribute.

"I'm black and a Jew! Shalom, my brothers! Oy vey!"
  • Rome Neal

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