Rain Pryor, daughter of Richard, comes by her talent honestly. She can sing, dance, tell jokes and ham it up with the best of them. Her stage show, “Fried Chicken and Latkes,” has been doing the rounds for years, including Atlanta, and in it she tells her life story with humor and pathos. Like her famous father, Pryor has been through divorces and drug addiction, preceded by a childhood that presented unique challenges.
All of this is presented in director Elzbieta Szoka’s documentary “That Daughter’s Crazy,” part of this year’s Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Said childhood involved coming to terms with having a white, Jewish mother and a black, mad genius for a dad who was seldom present. With clips from the one-woman show and in a sit-down interview, Pryor explains that growing up in Beverly Hills and then trying to break into the entertainment business was profoundly discomfiting.
“I wasn’t black enough to be black, and I’m not white enough to be white. Unique wasn’t in yet,” she says.
Born just as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Pryor discovered racism at the tender age of 6 when a boy in school repeatedly used the N-word against her. Her retaliation? She bit him, for which she was suspended.
Her mother, Shelley Bonis, also interviewed, says racism at the time was “abhorrent.” Bonis calls her daughter’s work “living art” while implying that Pryor’s perspective is a little muddied and that abuse accusations against her parents should be taken none too seriously.
There are poignant moments in the film, particularly as Pryor describes her father’s battle with multiple sclerosis, which eventually killed him, and his struggles to communicate his love for her. She rails against the funeral plans made by her stepmother, which turned the event into a kind of circus, and says her faith in G-d was severely shaken by her dad’s death.
A worthy read is Pryor’s book, “Jokes My Father Never Taught Me: Life, Love and Loss with Richard Pryor
,” published in 2006.