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Paul Mooney, the pioneering comic, writer and actor, has died, his rep, Cassandra Williams, told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 79.
Mooney died Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. at his home in Oakland, California.
“Thank you all from the bottom of all of our hearts …you’re all are the best!…… Mooney World .. The Godfather of Comedy – ONE MOON MANY STARS! .. To all in love with this great man.. many thanks,” Mooney’s family posted on his Twitter account Wednesday morning.
In addition to performing his own material, Mooney was famously a writer for the late comedian Richard Pryor. Mooney was introduced to a whole new generation of fans when he appeared multiple times on Chappelle’s Show, including the classic segment, “Ask a Black Dude.” Mooney has numerous film credits, including playing the legendary Sam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story (1978).
“We are deeply saddened and our hearts are broken by the news of the passing of @PaulEalyMooney. He was a staple of our industry, godfather to many of our careers and a founding father of standup comedy as we know it. He will be truly missed. Make God Laugh, Paul,” Los Angeles’ comedy landmark, The Laugh Factory, wrote on Twitter.
His birth name Paul Gladney, Mooney was born in 1941 in Shreveport, Louisiana. After discovering he had a knack for comedy and writing, Mooney moved to Hollywood where he would flourish as a writer for such classic TV programs as Sanford and Son and Good Times. Mooney also wrote a number of routines Pryor performed for his iconic albums, including Live on the Sunset Strip and Is It Something I Said. Mooney was also the head writer on the short-lived, cult classic The Richard Pryor Show. He also had a short stint as a writer on In Living Color.
Some of Mooney’s biggest fans were those who worked alongside him in the business.
“RIP the great Paul Mooney. It was an honor to be a back of the room student for his late night master classes when I was a doorman back in the day,” Marc Maron said on Twitter.
Said Viola Davis, “Awww…. RIP comedy legend Paul Mooney! You were both funny and poignant. So happy to have witnessed your genius live. Rest well!!! Pour down some laughter here. We need it.”
Eddie Murphy brought the house down when, in early March, he recalled the story of first meeting Mooney as Murphy’s star was taking off thanks to Saturday Night Live.
Murphy explained there was an incident at The Comedy Store in the ’80s that started when he was given “the light” to wrap up his set one evening. “I was like first-year SNL and I was killing, and I was like, ‘They’re giving me the light?’ I was only up for 10 minutes,’” Murphy said. He was told Mooney was up next, and not knowing who that was at the time, Murphy asked the audience which of the two they would rather hear. He then kept going for another hour, Murphy said.
Murphy, who was with director John Landis, then went outside, where he was approached by Mooney, who wanted to hear a part of his set, Murphy recalled. “I said, ‘I’m not doing my routine in a parking lot.’ And he said, ‘Fuck you, and fuck you, too, white man. If I had a gun, I’d shoot the both of you.’”
Chappelle on Wednesday afternoon told TMZ, “I want to shout out every comedian on Earth, the best whoever did it, paved the way today, his legacy will live forever. He did everything from The Richard Pryor Show to Chappelle’s Show. He’s one of the first Black people ever in the Writers Guild. Paul Mooney will be sorely missed and widely remembered. I’ll see to that.”
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