Yo Ho, WeRCatz here.
The world of comedy lost a giant as Paul Mooney died on May 19, 2021, at the age of 79 from a heart attack.
Born Paul Gladney, Mooney was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and moved to Oakland, California at age 7. He coined his name Mooney from watching the original 1932 film Scarface that starred Paul Muni.
Note: some of Mooney’s material include racial slurs. Despite the fact that some works include such words, we will not display such terms in their entirety. We respect the African-American community and would not stoop that way.
Mooney put his experience as a ringmaster at the Gatti-Charles Circus to good use in his comedic career as he developed his jokes and writings there. He then used these works with Richard Pryor. Mooney wrote for Pryor’s jokes and routines in Saturday Night Live. Mooney also worked in Pryor’s comedy albums, including the classic Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), Bicentennial N- (1976), and …Is It Something I Said? (1975) where Pryor’s famous character Mudbone debuted.
In television work, Mooney was the head writer of The Richard Pryor Show in 1977; he worked in all 4 episodes (yeah, it lasted that short). Because of this show, Mooney and Pryor gave many comedians their future stardom: Robin Williams, Tim Reid, Sandra Bernhard, Edie McClurg, and the late John Witherspoon.
Besides working with Pryor, Mooney wrote or acted for other television shows and films that are classics in their own right, including Sanford & Son, Good Times, In Living Color, Spike Lee’s Bamboozled (Mooney played the character Junebug), and Hollywood Shuffle.
Mooney also worked with comedian Dave Chappelle in Chappelle’s Show. Classic bits included “Ask a Black Dude,” “Mooney at the Movies,” and the immortal “Negrodamus.” He was to continue portraying Negrodamus but Dave Chappelle left his show because of stress.
Controversy is nothing foreign to Paul Mooney because the mainstream media was so behind to Mooney’s comedy and opinion. His comedy touches the realities of America; racism, social issues, race relations, and his critiquing of African-American celebrities that drew attention. He received major attention at the 2005 BET Comedy Awards for his segment called “N- Wake Up Call Award” where he gave the “award” to Diana Ross. He gave his two cents on “The N-Word” incident with Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld): Mooney was so offended by Richards that he swore to never again use the n-word in any of his comedy routines.
Despite his controversial topics, Paul Mooney shaped the world of comedy uniquely. His delivery, style, and input on popular culture are unrivaled. His death is a great loss for comedy, but we’ll still have a good laugh from time to time with his work.