Pioneering Comedian Paul Mooney, Mentor To Dave Chappelle and Richard Pryor, Has Died

Comedy legend Paul Mooney has died at 79 years-old.

The groundbreaking and sometimes controversial performer is probably known best to current generations from his appearances on Chappelle’s Show, but Mooney has been one of the most significant and persuasively  powerful figures behind many Black American comics from Dave Chappelle and Richard Pryor to Sampson McCormick.

Mooney passed away Wednesday morning in Oakland, California, his daughter Spring Mooney confirmed on Twitter. “Give me a moment,” Spring said in the emotional tweet. “My best friend just died and my world is forever SHOOK !!! I really can’t put into words right now my feelings .. know that I LOVE THIS MAN AND I AM BROKEN.”

Deadline: “As an actor, Mooney portrayed singer Sam Cooke in 1978’s The Buddy Holly Story, played Junebug in Spike Lee’s 2000 Bamboozled, made numerous guest appearances on such TV series and specials as The Richard Pryor Show, The Larry Sanders Show, and, more recently, Chappelle’s Show, Real Husbands of Hollywood, and, in 2004, his own comedy series Judge Mooney.”

Photo above: Mooney as Sam Cooke in 1978’s The Buddy Holly Story

Deadline again: “Mooney’s greatest influence, though, was as a writer, at first for sitcoms such as Sanford and Son and Good Times, but more significantly with and for Pryor. He was the head writer for Pryor’s groundbreaking The Richard Pryor Show, co-wrote much of the material on Pryor’s comedy albums (including the breakout Live on the Sunset Strip) and even was recruited by Pryor to provide material for Pryor’s hosting gig on Saturday Night Live (almost certainly including the legendary “Word Association” sketch, in which Pryor trades increasingly offensive racist terms with Chevy Chase; Chase has said he himself wrote the routine with Pryor, an assertion Mooney disputed). Mooney was head writer for the first year of Fox’s In Living Color, and is said to have inspired Damon Wayans’ signature character Homey D. Clown.”

RELATED: Paul Mooney Cancels Shows in the Wake of Allegations He Had Sex with Richard Pryor’s Son as a Teenager: WATCH

Beginning in 2004, the Shreveport, Louisiana, born Mooney landed his most high-profile role — playing Negrodamus — in a couple of skits on the smash hit Chappelle’s Show.

In 2006, Mooney told The Post that Chappelle has an “innocence” and “little boy quality” that he admired, adding that he was worried about the future of stand-up comedy. Saying of Chappelle: “We need people who are talented, creative and speak the truth, It’s a dying breed.”

The New York Post said: Mooney loved to mentor new and up-and-coming comics. Sandra Bernhard shared the story of how Mooney discovered her, launching her career in the business. “Cinco De Mayo 1974 I moved to LA my dad drove me over from Scottsdale in my Ford Maverick with a Landau roof studied manicuring at the Charles Ross School of Beauty I was 18 started performing a year later @PaulEalyMooney discovered me at the Ye Little Club the rest is history,” she tweeted — to which Mooney wrote back, “Love her!”

Mooney tweeted “People will always show you who they are.. when you have quiet time it comes to you how to prepare your shield. Always be you and put your best foot forward is your shield!”

Mooney published a memoir, Black is the New White, in 2005.

Cassandra Williams, Mooney’s publicist, said he died Wednesday morning at his home in Oakland, California, from a heart attack.

Information on survivors was not immediately available, but Mooney’s Twitter page posted a thank you message to the many people offering condolences:

Pioneering gay Black comedian Sampson McCormick summed up Mooney’s legacy on Instagram Wednesday morning: “I met Paul Mooney when I was 18, and he remained very active in my life and career. He was brutally honest and talked a lot of shit, but he pushed me and always had my back. He will always be godfather and one of the undisputed greats. Good night, Mooney. Thank you for everything.”

 

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