Paul Mooney Passes Away From Heart Attack At 79

Paul Mooney Passes Away From Heart Attack At 79

Paul Mooney

Paul Mooney Passes Away From Heart Attack At 79. In this photo, Paul Mooney attends S.O.S. (Saving OurSelves) BET's Hurricane Relief Telethon at CBS Studios in New York City on September 9, 2005. Photo Credit: Henry McGee/MediaPunch /IPX

Legendary comedian, writer, actor and social commentator Paul Mooney died of a heart attack in his Oakland, California home on Wednesday, May 19. He was 79.

Mooney’s cousin, Rudy Ealy, announced the death to journalist Roland Martin, according to Deadline. Publicist Cassandra Williams confirmed the report to the Los Angeles Times.

A statement released on Mooney’s official Twitter account thanked fans for their outpouring of condolences and tributes. “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.”


Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Mooney was raised by his grandmother. He is said to have taken to performing early. Mooney was known as the trusted friend and writer for the legendary comedian, the late Richard Pryor, but his influence on the world of comedy and contributions in Hollywood extend further than he is given credit for.

In addition to writing and making appearances on Dave Chappelle’s namesake “Comedy Central” show, Mooney was the head writer on “In Living Color” and is credited with helping create the wildly popular character Homey D. Clown. He also wrote for the short-lived “The Richard Pryor Show,” “Sanford and Son,” “Good Times” and several others.

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Mooney also starred as Sam Cooke in “The Buddy Holly Story” and Junebug in Spike Lee’s film “Bamboozled.” Known for using his comedic voice to confront racism and other social injustices, Mooney took pride in reclaiming, with Pryor, the N-word for the Black community.

“When Richard and I use it on stage in front of an audience with both white and black folks in it, we are saying something that white people can’t,” Mooney wrote in his 2009 memoir, “Black Is the New White.” He added, “It’s forbidden to them, but allowed to us. Ain’t too many things like that. It’s liberating.”

True to form, Mooney is credited with being the architect behind the groundbreaking Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase skit on “Saturday Night Live” that helped turn around the show’s mediocre ratings in 1975.

In the skit, Pryor plays a Black job applicant and Chase plays the white interviewer. Chase asks Pryor to do a word association game that goes left when he starts implementing racial epithets, which Pryor matches and eventually implies he would kill him after Chase calls him a n***er.

Mooney didn’t do his own full-length solo stand-up special until the 1993 album, “Race.” In it, he reiterated his defense of using the N-word.

Mooney made no apologies for being blunt about race. “I say what I feel. White folks got their freedom. I’m going to be free, white and 21, too,” he said in 2010. “You made it up! You shouldn’t have made it up!. “I say it, you think it,” Mooney quipped during the intro to the special.

No stranger to controversy, Mooney came under fire by some for going too far in his routines. This included saying that white people deserved what they got during the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon. He also mocked Diana Ross’ at the 2005 BET Awards over her DUI while her daughter, Tracee Ellis Ross, was in attendance.

In 2019, Mooney was accused by Richard Pryor’s former bodyguard, Rashon Kahn, of molesting Pryor’s then-teenage son, Richard Pryor Jr. Williams denied the allegations, telling TMZ, “There is no validity to Rashon Kahn’s statement as it relates to Mr. Paul Mooney.”

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On Wednesday, however, people chose to celebrate all the good things Mooney will be remembered for.

“It’s a tough one,” Chappelle told TMZ. “I want to shout out every comedian on Earth, the best who ever did it, paved the way today, his legacy will live forever … He’s one of the first Black people ever in the Writers Guild. Paul Mooney will be sorely missed and wildly remembered. I’ll see to that.”

Director Ava DuVernay described Mooney as a comedy giant. “I recall listening to his RACE album in college and how formative it was,” she wrote. “Yeah, the jokes. But more so, the freedom. He spoke freely and fearlessly about feelings and experiences others found difficult to express. May he be truly free now. Rest, sir.”

An official list of survivors has not been released, but Mooney is reported to have four children.