The comedy world lost a legend. Reports are coming in that Paul Mooney died of a heart attack this morning at the age of 79.
Mooney got his start in the business when he was discovered by Richard Pryor, who hired him to write for him. He ended up collaborating with Pryor on many of his projects including The Richard Pryor Show, Pryor’s Place, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, and four of his specials, The Richard Pryor Special?, Live in Concert, Live on the Sunset Strip, and Here and Now.
In 1990, he joined In Living Color as the head writer for its debut season. Where many claimed he was the inspiration for Damon Wayan’s Homey the Clown character. Additional TV and film writing credits include Sanford and Son, Good Times, The Patti LaBelle Show, The Marsha Warfield Show, The Roseanne Show (her talk show, not the hit sitcom), and the film Call Me Claus.
Modern comedy fans probably best know Mooney from his work on Chappelle’s Show. In addition to being a writer on the show, he also appeared in the sketches “Ask A Black Dude,” “Mooney At The Movies,” and most memorably the character Negrodamus.
Mooney also appeared in front of the camera in various TV and film roles over the years including as Sam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story, Bamboozled, Which Way Is Up?, Bustin’ Loose, Hollywood Shuffle, In The Army Now, The Larry Sanders Show, and his own show, Judge Mooney, which aired on BET in 2004. He also released his own stand-up specials Analyzing America, Jesus Is Black – So Was Cleopatra – Know Your History, It’s The End Of The World, The Godfather Of Comedy, and A Piece of My Mind – Godbless America.
In 2019, Mooney was under fire after Pryor’s ex-body guard, Rashon Khan, accused him of molesting Pryor’s son, Richard Pryor Jr., and revealed that Pryor wanted to put a hit on Mooney when he found out, which he never wound up following through with. Pryor Jr. did admit that he was molested, but never addressed whether or not it was Mooney. Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Lee, has also stated that she heard Pryor Jr. confirm that it was Mooney. For his part, Mooney had vehemently denied the allegations.
Check out some of our favorite clips of Mooney from over the years.