Entertainers remember pioneering comedian Paul Mooney

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Paul Mooney, the legendary comedian, actor and writer known for his sharp-tongued, no-holds-barred stand-up routines on racism and social justice, died May 19, at his home in Oakland.

His publicist Cassandra Williams confirmed the cause of death was a heart attack. He was 79.

“My father, Paul Mooney passed,” his son, Dwayne Mooney wrote on Facebook May 19. “He had a heart attack. May his spirit live on. Paul Mooney was an icon. He taught me how to deal with racism. He lived his life with purpose. As you send me love, take what he represented and live your life with purpose. There are lots of stars, but only one Moon – Paul Mooney.”

“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,” the family posted on Mooney’s Twitter account May 19.

Mooney, whose real name was Paul Gladney, ascended to comedic heights with his acerbic, acidic, edgy, and scathing in-your-face comedy musings that were both groundbreaking and unapologetically Black.

Throughout his seven decades-long career Mooney was known for pushing comedic boundaries.

Early in his career, the pioneering Mooney came into his own as the head writer for “The Richard Pryor Show.” He also wrote stand-up material for comedians Redd Foxx and Jimmie Walker.

As an actor, he received accolades for playing singer Sam Cooke in “The Buddy Holly Story,” and Junebug in “Bamboozled.”

A trailblazer, the Louisiana native found a new generation of fans when he appeared on comedian Dave Chappelle’s “Chappelle’s Show.” He appeared on the sketch comedy show as Negrodamus, who answered the questions to life’s great mysteries.

As the head writer on “In Living Color,” Mooney helped create the Homey D. Clown character. He also wrote for the comedy classics “Sanford and Son” and “Good Times.”

The Laugh Factory in Hollywood tweeted that Mooney was, “A founding father of standup comedy.”

Michael Williams, the creator and founder of the one-time comedy mecca, Comedy Act Theater in Leimert Park, called Mooney’s death, “a tremendous loss.”

“More than anything, it cements a generation that definitely is fading now,” Williams said. “We don’t see that age group of comedians live anymore because of the explosion of a couple generations under him that are dominating. To have had him perform at the Comedy Act Theater in both Los Angeles and Atlanta was a treat for those who were able to see him.”

Williams called Mooney’s death, “a loss in the Black comedy community overall.”

On TMZ May 19, comedian Dave Chappelle paid his respects and reflected on Mooney’s legacy.

“That’s a tough one,” he said. “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 did everything from the ‘The Richard Pryor Show’ to ‘Chappelle’s Show.’ 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.”

Asked if Mooney was one of the best comedians, Chappelle replied, “Ever.”

To many in the industry, the world of comedy lost a giant. Several celebrities shared their heartwarming messages as accolades for Mooney’s comedic contributions and ongoing legacy flooded social media.

On Twitter actor, writer and comedian Robert Townsend called Mooney, “The fearless king of comedy.”

“You always spoke unfiltered truth,” Townsend said. “Always made time to share your knowledge. Your edgy comedy voice will live on. God bless your soul.”

“I performed with Paul on stage, worked with him on screens big and small, witnessed him absolutely destroy audiences night after night after night,” said actor and comedian David Alan Grier on Instagram. “I will miss your uncompromising, truthful insight, intelligence and searing wit.”

Comedian George Wallace said on Twitter that he was “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.”

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted: “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.”

Comic W. Kamau Bell wrote, “I was lucky enough to open for Paul Mooney several times. It was a master class. It was like a Malcolm X speech that had been punched up by Redd Foxx. He was one of the greats.”

Comedian Alonza Bodden tweeted, “RIP Paul Mooney. Thank you sir for all the laughs. It was an honor to know you.”

Viola Davis wrote: 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.”

Singer Maxwell tweeted: “You could never be muted. We will miss you mr. paul mooney.”

Comedian Bill Burr wrote on Twitter, “R.I.P. to the absolute master! – Paul Mooney. I learned so much from you.”

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.