On the record:
In her one-woman show Fried Chicken & Latkes, Rain Pryor tells the story of growing up in a rather unusual family: Her Jewish mother was working as a go-go dancer when she met and married Rain’s father, Richard Pryor. The show explores what it’s like to be both Jewish and black, and the difficulties of having a dad who’s a comic genius, but thanks to drug and alcohol problems, was never in the running for father of the year. We caught up with Pryor in New York, where she was doing stand-up as a way of honoring her recently deceased dad’s memory.
Time Out Chicago: Is it hard for you to do Fried Chicken & Latkes so soon after your father’s passing?
Rain Pryor: My show’s changed a lot because of his passing. It’s difficult because it’s hard to be in front of people now. I’ve done stand-up the last four nights in New York. And every time, when I’m done, all I want to do is cry because I just miss him. But I also know I can’t give up. I’m supposed to just keep going right now.
TOC: Do you find your last name to be a help or a hindrance?
RP: It hasn’t really done anything. It hasn’t been helpful, it hasn’t really hindered me. It hasn’t catapulted me anywhere or held me back from anything.
TOC: But at least you get a little more attention.
RP: I do. And the downside of that is that people expect me to be him. I’m not. I’m me. That’s the difference. But on the comedy circuit, and especially now, the support and the love is there, and that’s amazing.
TOC: Were you trying to write a funny show with Fried Chicken & Latkes?
RP: No! I wrote it thinking my life is pretty dramatic. I realized as I was telling the story to people that they were cracking up. I’m like, Wow, I didn’t realize my life is so funny to you. I’m thinking, This is tragedy. You’re supposed to be crying, not cracking up. And then there are moments when it is tragedy, and you aren’t going to be cracking up.
TOC: Is the show therapeutic or cathartic for you at all?
RP: I guess in a way it is. It’s cathartic and it’s empowering. Any time you can tell your truth in front of hundreds and thousands of people, it becomes very empowering.
TOC: Has the show evolved over time?
RP: I update it. I find different moments. Something will pop into my head that I’ll go, Ooh, this needs to be in it. Obviously, my dad’s passing changed the last half of my show. I talk about his passing and the poignancy in the work that he did, which is relevant to my story of being black and Jewish. It’s a constantly evolving piece, because I only hope that it gets richer and gets better and I find different things and fine-tune it as I grow.—Mark Sinclair