Profane, profound and poignant, this memoir manages to transfer much of Pryor’s comic genius to the page. Aided by Gold, People magazine’s Los Angeles deputy bureau chief, Pryor juxtaposes his reflections with italicized comic bits that show how he-and characters like the seen-it-all Mudbone-transmute life into comedy. Pryor grew up among whorehouses and nightclubs in Peoria, Ill., a perfect perch from which to observe racism and hypocrisy. Driven to the stage by “pain and insecurity,” Pryor soon overindulged in drugs and women. But it took him years to evolve on stage from a colorless Cosby clone to a bard of the ghetto. Pryor’s volatile personal life-as well as Hollywood’s racism, he alleges-hindered his movie career, but he built a rich body of work on television, in concert films and on stage. His story careens between topics and episodes, including his abusive relationship with women (six marriages to date), his epiphanies in Africa and his notorious self-immolation while freebasing cocaine. Now, as Pryor fights multiple sclerosis, he reflects proudly on his work and vows he has much more to do. Photos not seen by PW.