Legendary comedian, writer and actor Paul Mooney has died at the age of 79. As reported by Deadline, Mooney died in his home of a heart attack. The news came to CNN contributor and Roland Martin Unfiltered host Roland Martin from Mooney’s cousin, Rudy Ealy. Martin also posted the news to Twitter, writing that Ealy called Martin from Ealy and Mooney’s Oakland home.
BREAKING NEWS: Comedic legend Paul Mooney has passed away. 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. We will pay tribute to him tonight on #RolandMartinUnfiltered
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) May 19, 2021
Mooney is best known for his own comedic work tackling racism in America as a writer for 1970s sitcoms and specials like Sanford and Son, The Motown Revue Starring Smokey Robinson, and The Patti LaBelle Show. He was also known for his comedic partnership with Richard Pryor. With Pryor, Mooney wrote for several of Pryor’s projects, including episodes of The Richard Pryor Show, several Pryor specials and documentaries, and the Saturday Night Live episode starring Pryor and poet/musician Gil Scott-Heron. Mooney’s career had a second wind in the early 2000s after becoming a contributor to Chappelle’s Show. Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Central show similarly introduced younger audiences to singers Rick James, Prince and comedian and Eddie Murphy‘s brother, Charlie Murphy.
Mooney also wrote and starred in his own specials, including Analyzing White America, Jesus Is Black -So Was Cleopatra- Know Your History, The Godfather of Comedy, It’s the End of the World, and A Piece of My Mind – Godbless America. According to Deadline, Mooney also headed the writers’ room for In Living Color, and is said to have inspired the iconic character Homey D. Clown. Mooney also wrote a memoir in 2005 called Black is the New White.
Mooney’s Twitter page has been updated with a message to fans, thanking them for their messages of condolences.
“Thank you all from the bottom of all of our hearts…you’re all the best!,” the tweet reads. “…The Godfather of Comedy – ONE MOON MANY STARS! ..To all in love with this great man.. many thanks.”
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 Mooney (@PaulEalyMooney) May 19, 2021
Stars have begun sending posting their condolences to Twitter as well. Viola Davis wrote, “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.”
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 ???????????? pic.twitter.com/cr6MqY3UXA
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) May 19, 2021
Ava DuVernay called Mooney a “comedy giant” on Twitter, writing how she listened to his “formative” RACE album in college.
“Yeah, the jokes. But more so, the freedom,” she wrote. “He spoke freely and fearlessly about feelings and experiences others found difficult to express. May he be truly free now. Rest, sir.”
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.
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) May 19, 2021
And in classic Bronx style, The Kid Mero tweeted, “PAUL MOONEY IS A COMEDY GOD B,” showing that while the Brand is Strong, the Brand also mourns its comedy predecessor.
PAUL MOONEY IS A COMEDY GOD B
— THE KID MERO ???????? (@THEKIDMERO) May 19, 2021