Entertainment

Paul Mooney’s comedic legacy resurfaces through memories from famous friends and fans


Comedy legend Paul Mooney’s signature sharp wit and unapologetic candor has outlived him on social media this week after the prolific writer and performer died at his Oakland home Wednesday at age 79.

A number of entertainment luminaries, including Dave Chappelle, Lenny Kravitz, Viola Davis, George Wallace, Ava DuVernay and Debbie Allen, took to Twitter to salute Mooney, who died of a heart attack.

The trailblazing comic was revered for his fearless approach to writing and speaking on race in the United States, forever revolutionizing the comedy landscape with his seminal contributions to “In Living Color,” “Chappelle’s Show,” “Saturday Night Live” and other boundary-pushing programs.

“It’s a tough one,” Chappelle told TMZ after the death of Mooney, who served as a key writer and cast member on “Chappelle’s Show,” which ran from 2003 to 2006.

“One of the best that ever did it passed away today. His legacy will live forever. He did everything, from ‘The Richard Pryor Show’ to ‘Chappelle’s Show.’ He was one of the first Black people ever in the Writers Guild. Paul Mooney will be sorely missed and wildly remembered.”

Oscar-winning “Hair Love” director Matthew A. Cherry was one of several people to share a viral clip of Mooney hilariously roasting his longtime collaborator and fellow comedy icon Richard Pryor during the short-lived “Richard Pryor Show” on NBC. Pryor died at age 65 in 2005.

“I’ve known [Pryor] for a long time,” Mooney said during his speech.

“When I met him, the first thing I noticed, he was very bright — two shades lighter than me. Since that time, we’ve become old and dear friends. I’m very dear to him. He’s very old to me. … He was born in Peoria, where half the kids in town call him a superstar these days. The other half call him Daddy. … I could go on, but I value my life.”

Many also resurfaced a famous “Saturday Night Live” sketch penned by Mooney and starring then-host Pryor as an applicant who puts a potential employer (portrayed by repertory player Chevy Chase) in his place while fielding a barrage of racist slurs as part of a “word association” exercise during a job interview.

“It’s like an H-bomb that Richard and I toss into America’s consciousness,” Mooney once said of authoring the classic “SNL” moment. “All that s— going on behind closed doors is now out in the open. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. The ‘N-word’ as a weapon, turned back against those who use it, has been born on national TV.”

While paying tribute to Mooney on Twitter, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” actor Davis hailed the beloved comic as “both funny and poignant,” and “Selma” director DuVernay remembered him as “a comedy giant.”

“I recall listening to his RACE album in college and how formative it was,” DuVernay tweeted. “Yeah, the jokes. But more so, the freedom. He spoke freely and fearlessly about feelings and experiences others found difficult to express. May he be truly free now.”

“I was lucky enough to open for Paul Mooney several times,” wrote “United Shades of America” host W. Kamau Bell. “It was a master class. It was like a Malcolm X speech that had been punched up by Redd Foxx. & then in the middle of everything he’d go off on a tangent about Jane Fonda. He was 1 of the greats. Rest in Peace, Mr. Mooney.”

Rock musician Kravitz thanked Mooney for “always keeping it real,” while veteran comedy director Robert Townsend declared Mooney’s “edgy comedy Voice will live on” because he “always spoke the unfiltered truth.”

“So saddened by the loss of a real comedy King, Paul Mooney,” tweeted comedian Wallace. “Total respect for my elder. [John] Witherspoon last year, now this. They say it comes in threes. I ain’t sleepin’ for the next two years.”

“#PaulMooney, the comedic genius that fueled Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy made his transition to a holy place this morning,” wrote “Fame” star Allen. “We will miss you, Homie. We will forever speak your name.”

See more reactions to Mooney’s death below.




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