Comedy legend Paul Mooney has died. He was 79. According to TMZ, the comedian, writer and actor's family confirmed that he died from a heart attack on on Wednesday morning (May 19th) at his home in Oakland. Paramedics tried to revive him but they were unsuccessful.
Journalist and TV host Roland S. Martin initially broke the news about Paul's death, saying that he received a call from Paul's cousin Rudy Ealy. Martin said, “His cousin, Rudy Ealy, just called me from Paul’s phone and said he passed away two hours ago after suffering a heart attack at his home in Oakland. He was 79.”
He continued, “Rudy Ealy told me that Paul had been suffering with dementia for some time and had been living with him. Rudy said Oakland paramedics valiantly tried to save him after suffering a heart attack this AM.”
On Wednesday morning (May 19th), a statement was released from Mooney's Twitter account, saying, “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.”
Paul had been out of the public eye for a few years and had been suffering from dementia. He was also staying with a family member.
Mooney was born in Louisiana and moved to Oakland as a child. He got his start in entertainment as a circus ringmaster, where he realized he had a passion for telling and writing jokes.
His first professional job in show business was as a writer for Richard Prior. Mooney worked with Prior for years, contributing to his stand up performances, such as “Live on the Sunset Strip.”
In addition, Mooney also wrote “Pryor's Place.” His other writing credits include “Sanford and Son,” “Good Times,” “In Living Color” and “Chappelle's Show.”
As an actor, Mooney's is best known for playing Sam Cooke in the 1978 film The Buddy Holly Story. He also starred as “Junebug” in Spike Lee's Bamboozled, along with regular appearances on Chappelle's Show.
TMZ ran into Dave Chappelle and he released a statement, saying, “I want to shout out every comedian on Earth. One of the best that ever did it passed away today. His legacy will live forever. He’s one of the first Black people ever in the Writer’s Guild. Paul Mooney will be sorely missed and wildly remembered.”
Here are more celebrity reactions:
Viola Davis: “Awww…. RIP comedy legend Paul Mooney! You were both funny and poignant. So happy to have witnessed your genius live. Rest well!!! Pour down some laughter here. We need it 💗💗💗.”
Ava Duvernay: “Paul Mooney. A comedy giant. I recall listening to his RACE album in college and how formative it was. 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.”
Dionne Warwick: “My heartfelt condolences to the family of my dear friend Paul Mooney. He will be missed.”
Matthew A. Cherry: “Rest in peace legend Paul Mooney.”
George Wallace: “So saddened by the loss of a real comedy King, Paul Mooney. Total respect for my elder. Witherspoon last year, now this. They say it comes in threes. I ain't sleepin' for the next two years.”
Al Sharpton: “I am saddened to hear about the passing of comedian, Paul Mooney, an extraordinary humorist and passionate community activist. We spent many hours in fierce and fiery discussions that I’ll always remember. May he Rest In Peace and Power.”
Freddie Prinze Jr.: “I was 14 when I met Paul Mooney. No comic was more real with me about my father. He refused to pull punches while showing him tons of respect. I’m forever grateful for that and thankfully had the chance to tell him. Rest easy.”
Lenny Kravitz: “Paul Mooney. Thank you for always keeping it real. #RIP.”
Holly Robinson Peete: “I’m so sorry to hear this. Few people made me laugh the way Paul Mooney did. He was a brilliant comedian and writer. You will be so missed. RIP Legend.”
Robert Townsend: “Rest in peace Mr. Paul Mooney the #fearless king of Comedy…you always spoke unfiltered truth… always made time to share your knowledge… your edgy comedy Voice will live on… God bless your soul.”
Deon Cole: “SOOOO I knew Paul was a iconic writer for Richard Pryor and When I became a writer for Conan I told him I was and he said to me “good for you. they got a can of moose hair gel with your name on it too. don’t use it” and I understood instantly what was up. R.I.P. PAUL MOONEY.”
Jenifer Lewis: My baby Paul Mooney is gonna be funny funny funny and more funny wherever he goes.
Bob Saget: “Paul Mooney. So sorry to hear of his passing. When I cane to the Comedy Store in 1978 I watched him so often when he performed. Incredibly funny and poignant. Always so kind to me too. He loved waking people up. While being hilarious. Rest In Peace Paul.”
Paul Mooney on race:
- “I'm a little exhausted, I'm a little….. I called the paramedics, I thought she was dead.”
- “Look at you with your beautiful skin. Look, look at your color. Black don't crack. Look at you. Oh, I know. You're 55? You're not 52. Are you serious? Them big breasts is 52, but you ain't...”
During an appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show (2014), Paul Mooney spoke on Barack Obama being President.
- “Isn't it great that Obama's the President? Isn't it the best? Ain't it the best? A win, win situation, for us. Win, win. That's how I like to get white folks, in a win, win situation.”
During an appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show (2014), Paul Mooney speaks on LeVar Burton in Roots.
- “Let's go all the way back to, Roots. What was it called? Roots? Or, whatever it was called. When we saw LeVar Burton. Remember? We got on the telephone. We'd never seen lips those big. Remember when we got on the phone? Where did they find him? In a tree? Where'd they find him? We had never seen anything that black with them lips that big. And now those lips are normal. He hasn't changed them. He hasn't had them fixed. And they're like normal. Because they got white women with lips bigger than that.”
During an appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show (2014), Paul Mooney speaks on white women keeping Arsenio young.
- “Arsenio has like, stopped the clock. It's like time, like times, take a look at Arsenio. It's like time stood still. Look at, look at him… Look at him. Look… Look at him… What kept him young was those white women… See? See? Those white women kept him young. You see? They kept him so young. Look at Arsenio. Look, look at him. Time stood still. Look.”
Chappelle's Show: Paul Mooney jokes about Wayne Brady.
- “White people love Wayne Brady because he makes Bryant Gumbel look like Macolm X.”
Chappelle's Show: Paul Mooney does a review on Gone With The Wind.
- “You must be on crack, I don't think we seen the same movie. I thought Scarlett was a hoe because she went to bed with everybody but Mammy. I love Mammy and Mammy was the best. The best scene in the movie is when Mammy told the white people, 'Get off my porch you white trash.' I stood and I applauded. I loved every bit of it.”
Paul Mooney roasts Richard Pryor:
- “I've known him for a long time. When I met him the first thing I noticed that he was very bright. Two shades lighter than me . . . the other half call him daddy.”
Paul Mooney on the ghost tv show craze:
- “I want you to stop this ghost stuff. You're obsessed with it. . . . White folks, there are no ghosts! . . . I can prove it! If there were ghosts, slaves would come back and f*ck you up, you do know that?”
Paul Mooney says the black man is the most copied man on the planet:
- “The black man in America is the most copied man on this planet. Bar none. Everybody wanna be a n*gga but nobody wanna be a n*gga. How about that question. The Colonel is a n*gga now. He's ate so much chicken that he's a n*gga now. . . . the rest of them need to break down and admit it too.”
Paul Mooney says he can't be racist:
- “Well, that's very funny. I can't be racist by definition. . . . How can I be racist? . . . by definition I can't be racist.”