Matt Clark, a childhood friend of Richard Pryor, recalled the comic’s beginnings in this 2005 Peoria Journal Star piece, published after Pryor’s death. Clark knew a lonely Pryor, a boy who, as an only child growing up in a brothel, was surrounded by adult dealings and hankered to join the playtime of his large set of brothers and sisters.

Richard’s bottled-up imagination made him, as Clark notes, a prime target for Julitette Whittaker’s mentorship. Clark remembers a boy who, armed with Whittaker’s confidence and an unshakable work ethic, performed for anyone who would listen — even it meant performing on the street before an audience that was sometimes indifferent or hostile.