Paul Mooney died today from a heart attack he suffered Wednesday morning in his Oakland home according to TMZ. The writer, comedian, and Chappelle’s Show favorite was 79.
Paul Mooney was born Paul Gladney on August 4, 1941 in Shreveport, Louisiana to George Gladney and LaVoya Ealy. Mooney moved to Oakland, California at the age of 7. Aimay Ealy, his grandmother, raised him for most of his childhood. When Mooney got older, he worked as a ringmaster for the Gatti-Charles Circus where he found his pen stroke by writing jokes and performing said jokes for the paying customers. This was his springboard to writing for legendary comedian Richard Pryor.
Mooney wrote routines for Pryor when he would appear on Saturday Night Live, co-wrote a handful of albums with Pryor, & Mooney was even head writer for The Richard Pryor Show. Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, & John Witherspoon were some of the young comedians Mooney would help break into the business. He later would go on to write for Sanford and Son & Good Times, then lead the writers for the flagship season of In Living Color.
Many around my age and younger recognize Paul Mooney from his numerous appearances on the highly popular and just as controversial Chappelle’s Show. Mooney started with the bit Ask A Black Dude where candid people on the streets would ask a question to a black dude that they might be uncomfortable asking in public. Chappelle’s Show moved on to Mooney at the Movies where Mooney would take on the likes of The Last Samurai speaking to how Tom Cruise is the last samurai. Then he made his most famous appearance as Negrodamus, which you can see here.
Mooney released his first book in 2007 called Black is the New White. Mooney’s brother announced that Mooney was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November of 2014. He continued to tour despite it. Recently Mooney developed dementia and was living with a family member in his Oakland home.
His imprint is felt by myself and I am sure many others. Rest in peace, Paul Mooney.