Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Comedian Paul Mooney Dead at 79

TMZ reports that Paul Mooney -- the longtime comedian, writer and actor known best for his work with Richard Pryor -- has died from a heart attack at age 79. 

According to his family, Mooney died Wednesday morning at his home in Oakland. (TMZ says paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive him after he suffered a heart attack.) Mooney, who's been out of the public eye for a few years, had also reportedly been suffering from dementia for some time and was staying with a family member. 

Though born in Louisiana, Mooney moved to Oakland and grew up there, and got his start in entertainment as a circus ringmaster, which led to a passion for telling and writing jokes. This led to his first professional gig in show business as a writer for Pryor, and the two would maintain a working relationship for years to come, with Paul contributing to Richard's legendary stand-up performances such as "Live on the Sunset Strip." 

Mooney was also the head writer on "The Richard Pryor Show" and wrote a few episodes of "Pryor's Place." His other notable writing credits include "Sanford and Son," "In Living Color" and "Chappelle's Show." As an actor, Paul's best known for playing Sam Cooke in the 1978 film "The Buddy Holly Story," and for his role as Junebug in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled" along with regular appearances on "Chappelle's Show."

Mooney, who was known to many as the man who discovered Sandra Bernhard, was not without his controversies, both of which are included in his Wikipedia entry. 

At a performance at Levity Live in West Nyack, N.Y., on April 20, 2013 -- five days after the Boston Marathon bombing -- Mooney allegedly joked, "White people in Boston deserved what they got and [it was] OK to lose a few limbs ... as long as no blacks got hurt it was OK." Numerous audience members stormed out and the show's producer "Levity Live Comedy Club" canceled the remaining shows. On April 23, Mooney appeared on the "Opie and Anthony Show" on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, and denied he had made the comments as reported, particularly denying he said that "white people deserved to be blown up."

And then in an August 2019 interview with Comedy Hype, Richard Pryor's ex-bodyguard, Rashon Khan, alleged that Mooney had a sexual relationship with Pryor's son, Richard Pryor Jr., when Pryor Jr. was a teen. Khan also alleged that Pryor had expressed a desire to have Mooney killed in a murder-for-hire plot over this incident and was only prevented from doing so by his 1980 fire accident. The allegations -- which Mooney repeatedly denied -- have been corroborated by Richard Pryor Sr.'s widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor. For their part, one of Mooney's twin sons had this to say about their father: "When people used to ask us if our father was gay, I’d say, ‘I don’t know, he never tried to f*ck us!’ How are we supposed to know? I don’t know… that’s hearsay." (Wow, how's that for a family bond?)

Richard Pryor Jr. has confirmed he was sexually exploited as a child but did not mention Mooney by name -- although he responds to questions about Mooney as if he were the person in question.

Sean Carnage: RIP Paul Mooney. I will never forget meeting you when you were on The Queer Edge with Jack E. Jett + Sandra Bernhard. This is one of his best interviews—he tells how he discovered + mentored Sandra!

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