Pioneer actor, comedian and writer Paul Mooney, died on Wednesday morning, his representative Cassandra Williams confirmed. He was 79. He died at his home in Oakland, Calif., after suffering a heart attack.
Paul Mooney served as the head writer on “The Richard Pryor Show” and co-wrote some of Pryor’s material on several of his comedy albums and his “Saturday Night Live” sketches. Mooney also wrote for “Sanford and Son,” “Good Times,” “In Living Color,” “Pryor’s Place,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Chappelle’s Show” and BET’s reality TV parody show “Real Husbands of Hollywood.”
In addition to his stand-up comedy, Mooney appeared in movies like “The Buddy Holly Story,” where he played Sam Cooke; “Bustin’ Loose”; “Hollywood Shuffle”; Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled”; and most recently “Meet the Blacks” in 2016.
On Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Central show, Paul Mooney played the recurring character Negrodamus, a Black version of the philosopher Nostradamus who specialized in answering questions like “Why do white people love Wayne Brady so much?” (Answer: “Because Wayne Brady makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X”).
Much of Mooney’s stand-up material focused on race. His sets at the 2005 BET Comedy Awards and the 2006 BET tribute to Black History Month skewered celebrities like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Oprah Winfrey, Lil’ Kim, Diana Ross, Flavor Flav, Terrell Owens and more.
In 2007, he published a memoir titled “Black Is the New White,” in which he discussed his relationship with Pryor and some of his most iconic and controversial comedy sets.