Paul Mooney, the comedian known for writing for fellow comic Richard Pryor and a host of other shows, has died at the age of 79.
Roland Martin shared the news on Twitter today, saying Mooney’s cousin, Rudy Ealy, called him this morning to tell him Mooney had passed away around 8 a.m. after suffering a heart attack at his home in Oakland, CA.
Mooney was born Paul Gladney on August 4, 1941 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He moved to Oakland at the age of seven where he was primarily raised by his grandmother. It was while working as a ringmaster with the Gatti-Charles Circus that Mooney began to develop his knack for comedic writing and telling jokes.
In 1968, Mooney met Pryor and they remained friends until the comedic legend’s death in 2005. He said of their bond in a 2010 interview with popmatters.com, “Opposites attract. It’s something I can’t really put my finger on. It was just supposed to be.”
Mooney would go on to write SNL sketches for Pryor and co-wrote the material for a number of his comedic albums and films, including Live on the Sunset Strip, Bicentennial Nigger, Is It Something I Said and Your Life Is Calling. He was also the head writer for The Richard Pryor Show where he gave future stars like John Witherspoon, Tim Reid, and Robin Williams their first big break.
Other TV writing credits to Mooney’s name include Sanford & Son, Good Times, and In Living Color. In film, he wrote and starred in several cult classics like Bamboozled, Hollywood Shuffle, The Buddy Holly Story, and Chappelle’s Show.
Mooney was known for tackling racism in America in his material and in 2006 gained attention for vowing to no longer use the n-word 2006 after Seinfield star Michael Richards’ racist rant that was captured at the Laugh Factory. Mooney was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014 but continued to tour and perform standup.