Just as Eugene McCarthy (see below) changed the face of American politics in the 1960’s, Richard Pryor changed the face of American comedy, especially for African-Americans.
At a time when black comics were copies of either Eddie “Rochester” Anderson or Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor became a role model for a whole generation of artists of every race. He didn’t mince words — hell, he used every swearword you could think of and probably some you can’t — but he had the saving grace of being extraordinarily funny in his stand-up act that took on racial issues and prejudice head-on. He was one of the few stand-ups who made the successful transition to acting in film; my favorite is Silver Streak. He showed he could also do dramatic roles as he did in a small part in Lady Sings the Blues.
Rest in peace.