OAKLAND (CelebrityAccess) — Paul Mooney, the writer, comic, and actor who wrote for artists such as the late comedian Richard Pryor and Dave Chapelle, has died. He was 79.
According to multiple media reports, Mooney died at his home in Oakland, California, after suffering a heart attack.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana and raised in Oakland, California, Mooney got his first taste of live comedy at his first job in the entertainment industry, serving as the ringmaster Gatti-Charles Circus.
The gig helped Mooney land a role writing for Richard Pryor, including material for Saturday Night Live, as well as stand-up comedy albums, including Pryor’s Live on the Sunset Strip, and Is It Something I Said.
Mooney also served as the head writer for Fox’s iconic sketch comedy show In Living Color, and later Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show with much of his comedic work focusing on issues of race in America.
In 2005, he controversially performed a comedy routine he called the “Nigga Wake Up Call Award”, on the BET Comedy Awards, in which he presented a facetious award to black artists who minimized their race in an effort to appeal to broader audiences. After the segment, he faced criticism for “being over the top” and called out what he perceived as a double standard for black and white artists. However, BET later edited the majority of the segment out of the show before broadcast.
In 2006, Mooney swore off using the ‘n-word’ in comedy during an appearance on CNN following fellow comedian Michael Richard’s controversial use of the racist slur during a stand-up set.
Mooney’s film credits include his portrayal of comedian Junebug in the Spike Lee comedy-drama Bamboozled, The Legend of Dolemite, where he played himself, and a turn as the musician Sam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story, among others.
After news of his passing broke, tributes for Mooney poured in on social media.
“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,” noted Los Angeles comedy club, The Laugh Factory, wrote on Twitter.