Legendary comedian, actor and Chappelle's Show favorite Paul Mooney has died at the age of 79. Mooney died in his home in Oakland, California at about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, after suffering a heart attack.
Paul Mooney was known for his unflinching social criticism, and being able to bring a sharp wit to the subject of racism and race relations, which he did many times during his long career as a comedian, actor and writer, including during his collaborations with fellow comedy legend, Richard Pryor. Mooney's publicist confirmed his passing to Daily News.
While Mooney made his on-screen debut with an uncredited role in a 1970 made for TV movie, he would go on to appear in many popular shows and films for the next several decades. Mooney portrayed soul singer Sam Cooke in 1979's Oscar winning movie The Buddy Holly Story, and also had parts in Good Times, Which Way Is Up?, Hollywood Shuffle, The Larry Sanders Show, Spike Lee’s 2000 film Bamboozled, and had his own series, Judge Mooney, in 2004.
But, one of Paul Mooney's most well-known appearances on screen is probably as the character Negrodamus, whom he played to perfection on Chappelle's Show in 2004. Mooney only made two appearances on the extremely successful sketch series as this future-telling parody of Nostradamus (though he did do some other work on Chappelle's Show), his time there marked some of fans' favorite bits from the series. And, with very good reason, as he managed to keep a completely straight face on camera while "predicting" some truly wild things.
The comedian also wrote for several beloved shows during his extensive career. Paul Mooney began by writing for Sandford and Son in 1972, and moved on to writing for several Richard Pryor specials, television shows, and movies, including Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip and the 1986 film inspired by Pryor's life, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, and helping to pen Pryor's 1975 guest hosted episode of Saturday Night Live.
Mooney also wrote for In Living Color (where's he was the head writer for the first season, and was credited with creating Homey the Clown), Chappelle's Show and Roseanne's short lived talk show, The Roseanne Show, among many other projects for other entertainers and comedians. But, Mooney also wrote his own comedy specials, including Paul Mooney: Analyzing White America (2002), Jesus Is Black - So Was Cleopatra - Know Your History (2007), It's the End of the World (2010), The Godfather of Comedy (2012), and A Piece of My Mind - Godbless America (2014).
In his 2005 memoir, Black Is the New White, Mooney wrote at length about his long partnership with Pryor, his childhood and many of the controversies of his life. Paul Mooney and his work meant quite a lot to many people, and our thoughts go out to all of his friends and family at this difficult time.