On this day in 1980, actor and comedianset himself on fire while free-basing cocaine and drinking 151-proof rum.
Pryor ran down the street of his Northridge, California neighborhood until he was subdued by police. According to his daughter, her father was in a drug-induced psychosis and poured rum all over his body and set himself on fire. Although 39-year-old Pryor was given a 1-in-3 chance to live, he survived and continued to act and do stand-up.
During his 1982 comedy show, the street-wise comedian and actor joked that the fire was caused by dunking a cookie into a glass of low-fat pasteurized milk. He went on to wave a lit match, proclaiming, “What’s this? It’s Richard Pryor running down the street.”
Pryor died in 2005. Comedy Central placed him at No. 1 on its list of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians of all time.
Source: The Examiner