Richard Pryor, whose flame rose highest in the 1970s, was one of the most popular comedians of his generation - something he hated - but also one of the most controversial, with his peerless riffs on subjects of race and class hitherto overlooked by audiences, simply wanting to be entertained, not provoked.
His daring and ability for self-destruction is explored in the documentary 'Richard Pryor - Omit the Logic', to be broadcast on Sunday evening. Here are just a handful of the quotes from the contributors to the programme...
"Richard Pryor, undisputed champion of the world. Greatest of all times. Case closed, period, exclamation point."
"Most of us saw Richard and thought, he's free flying. I want to free fly."
"He wasn't just telling jokes, he was telling stories. And stories that were so vivid and so funny that you had to stay with him. And you think: OK, that's amazing."
"It was just amazing to see him live. It's like saying that you saw Coltrane play."
"It was pretty crazy...it was wonderful. And he was always pushing the envelope."
"He was always between two worlds. He was between that acceptable, sort of mainstream white world, and of course a much stronger, harder, knowing, street place. But the networks were so leery of him, you know, so scared of him."
"Richard Pryor defined the game of stand-up comedy, and comedy itself."
MICHAEL SCHULTZ (DIRECTOR OF WHICH WAY IS UP - STARRING RICHARD PRYOR)
"You know, his sensitivity was what made him so brilliant as a, as a comedian. But, some things were so painful, that he wanted to be somewhere else."
DAVID STEINBERG, COMEDIAN
"He was fully blown as Richie Pryor. It was astonishing. His point of view, his attack on the culture from every version. No holds barred, not thinking about a career. Not thinking about what you have to do to be right and wrong."
"It wasn't Hollywood that beat him in any way. He defeated himself with what his bad habits were."
"Sometimes to understand Richard you first have to omit logic. And then you come closer. 'Cause what you think it ought to be it ain't gonna be nothing like that."
'Richard Pryor - Omit the Logic' is on Sunday 25 August, BBC4 at 10pm. Watch the trailer below...