Events | Local | News | Upcoming

Hillel to host Pryor in ‘Fried Chicken and Latkes’

Rain Pryor

Rain Pryor is bringing her one-woman show, “Fried Chicken and Latkes,” to Tucson next month.

Pryor, 49, is the daughter of the late comedy icon Richard Pryor and a Jewish go-go dancer-turned-astronomer, Shelley R. Bonus.

In the show, she plays 11 different characters, from her famous father to her outspoken Jewish bubbe, as she explores what it was like to grow up biracial in a far less politically correct era.

Pryor will perform “Fried Chicken and Latkes” as a fundraiser for the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Leo Rich Theatre at the Tucson Convention Center.

The show debuted in 2004 as a cabaret act. In fact, Tucson’s Invisible Theatre was the first place she performed it outside of Beverly Hills, Pryor told the AJP in a telephone interview last month.

The current version, “a solid play format,” is almost all new, she says. In 2017, it played for months to sellout crowds at the Jewish Women’s Theatre in Los Angeles, and was a success in New York, Chicago and beyond, including Scotland.

“Rain’s life story of multiculturalism is fascinating, and her one-woman show is not to be missed,” says Dana Narter, chair of the event for Hillel.

Pryor says she has updated the show “to the point where now it’s being developed into a TV series with Norman Lear.”

This will not be her first foray into TV — Pryor played TJ on the long running sitcom “Head of the Class” and has dozens of other credits to her name.  She also sings, does stand-up comedy, and is a motivational speaker and author. Her book, “Jokes My Father Never Taught Me: Life, Love, and Loss with Richard Pryor,” was published by Harper Collins in 2006.

Her play, which reviewers call both funny and heart wrenching, is autobiographical, she says, “but it really is a story for everyone.”

Although “not everyone’s dad is Richard Pryor,” she explains, “I think the experiences of growing up mixed race, of the era that some of the incidents in [my] life took place, is very universal.”

Her message, she says, is that “as Jewish people we can come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and that being who you are, your authentic self, is the only thing that matters.”

“And our job is to be better than our parents were,” she adds.

Despite growing up amid major dysfunction — her father, who died in 2005 from multiple sclerosis, famously set himself on fire in 1980 while freebasing cocaine — Pryor exudes strength and optimism, which she brings both to her multi-faceted career and to her home life with her daughter, 10-year-old Lotus Marie, and husband, David Vane.

“For me, having a family, I think is my greatest job ever, and allows me the freedom to create what I create because I have a very supportive husband and extended family,” she says, noting that she co-parents with her daughter’s father, Yale Partlow (they divorced in 2014). “We all spend holidays together — it’s amazing,” she says.

She and Vane live in Baltimore and run an online vintage and pre-owned clothing business together, says Pryor, who loves that he is not in show business.

Pryor is excited about the upcoming TV series based on her one-woman show. Eve Brandstein, who directs the play, is one of the executive producers. She was the casting director for “One Day at a Time” and worked with Lear on many other projects, says Pryor, who is confident the TV version of “Fried Chicken and Latkes” will debut later this year, probably on a streaming service.

For the TV series, the one-woman show is just a jumping off point.

“In the [TV] show I’m 13 in the 1970s … it’s not me now,” she explains.

Today, Pryor finds more acceptance as a biracial woman than she did growing up. “The world’s changed,” she says, explaining that back then “people were afraid to think outside of the box, because their lives depended upon it.

“I talk about that in my show — my grandmother, in my solo show, says, ‘You know, we were European Jews and we had just escaped Nazi Germany, and here we were in the United States, trying to hold onto everything we are.’”

Now, she says, “I’m on a forum on Facebook for multicultural Jews.”

For special event ticket packages, contact Hillel at 624-6561 or
. For general admission tickets, $47, call the Leo Rich Theater at 791-4101.