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Paul Mooney (comedian)

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Paul Mooney
Mooney in December 2009
Birth namePaul Gladney
Born(1941-08-04)August 4, 1941
Shreveport, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedMay 19, 2021(2021-05-19) (aged 79)
Oakland, California, U.S.
MediumStand-up comedy, television, film, books
Years active1962–2021
GenresObservational comedy, improvisational comedy, sketch comedy
Subject(s)African-American history, African-American culture, American politics, identity politics, current events, racism, race relations, pop culture
Notable works and rolesSam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story
Junebug in Bamboozled
Negrodamus in Chappelle's Show

Paul Gladney (August 4, 1941 – May 19, 2021), better known by the stage name Paul Mooney, was an American comedian, writer, and actor.[1] He collaborated with Redd Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Dave Chappelle, wrote for comedian Richard Pryor and the television series Sanford and Son, In Living Color and Chappelle's Show, as well as acting in The Buddy Holly Story (1978), the Spike Lee-directed satirical film Bamboozled (2000), and Chappelle's Show.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Mooney was born in 1941 in Shreveport, Louisiana, and moved to Oakland, California, seven years later.[4] His parents were George Gladney and LaVoya Ealy.[5] Mooney was raised primarily by his grandmother Aimay Ealy, known among the family as "Mama".[6] Gladney coined the nickname "Mooney" after the original Scarface (1932) actor Paul Muni (which itself was the actor's stage name).[7]


Mooney became a ringmaster with the Gatti-Charles Circus. During his stint as ringmaster, he always found himself writing comedy and telling jokes, which later helped Mooney land his first professional work as a writer for Richard Pryor.

Mooney wrote some of Pryor's routines for his 1975 appearance on Saturday Night Live; co-wrote his material for Pryor's albums ...Is It Something I Said? (1975), Bicentennial Nigger (1976), and Live on the Sunset Strip (1982); and co-wrote the screenplay of Pryor's 1986 film Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling.[8] As the head writer for The Richard Pryor Show, he gave many young comics, such as Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, Marsha Warfield, John Witherspoon, and Tim Reid, their first break into show business.

Mooney also wrote for Redd Foxx's Sanford and Son and Good Times, acted in several cult classics including the Richard Pryor comedy films Which Way Is Up?, Bustin' Loose, and the cult satirical comedy Hollywood Shuffle, and portrayed singer/songwriter Sam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story.

He was the head writer for the first year of Fox's In Living Color, inspiring the character Homey D. Clown, played by Damon Wayans. Mooney later went on to play Wayans' father in the Spike Lee-directed film Bamboozled as the comedian Junebug.

Mooney initially appeared in the sketches "Ask a Black Dude" and "Mooney at the Movies" on Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show. He later appeared as Negrodamus, an African American version of Nostradamus. As Negrodamus, Mooney ad-libbed the "answers to life's most unsolvable mysteries" such as "Why do white people love Wayne Brady?" (answer: "Because Wayne Brady makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X"). Mooney was planning to reprise his role as Negrodamus in the third season of the Chappelle's Show, before Dave Chappelle left the show due to creative and contractual differences.

In 2006, Mooney hosted the BET tribute to Black History Month titled 25 Most @#%! Moments in Black History. In this show, he narrated some of the most shameful incidents involving African Americans since 1980. The top 25 moments included incidents involving Marion Barry, Terrell Owens, Wilson Goode, Michael Jackson, Flavor Flav, Whitney Houston, and Tupac Shakur.

In 2007, Mooney released his first book, the memoir Black Is the New White.[1]

In November 2014, Paul's brother announced that Mooney had prostate cancer.[9] Mooney continued to tour, and perform his stand-up comedy act.[9]

BET Comedy Awards[edit]

In September 2005, Mooney performed a segment at the 2005 BET Comedy Awards called the "Black People Wake Up Call Award", in which he jokingly presents an award to African American celebrities who neglected their blackness to try and blend in with Caucasians, only to find out they're still a "n-word " in their eyes. The "nominees" included Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Lil' Kim, and Diana Ross. Mooney awarded Ross and made numerous jokes about Ross's 2002 arrest for DUI.[10] According to people who were in attendance, Mooney also made light of the death of Ross's ex-husband Arne Næss Jr., who fell while mountain climbing in 2004.[11] Tracee Ellis Ross, Ross's daughter and Næss's stepdaughter, was also in attendance. She reportedly was so offended and embarrassed that she left the room.[12] Backstage in the press room, Mooney was asked if he felt his performance was "over the top". Mooney replied:

How can somebody get arrested for (being under the influence) and go to jail and I be over the top? I think that's over the top, don't you? Agree or disagree, folks. No, comedy is not over the top. When you are a celebrity and you do crazy stuff, that's the game.

When Mooney was informed that Tracee Ellis Ross was in the audience, he stated:

I didn't know ... her mama could've been in there, that's not the point. I didn't drive drunk. Now I'm responsible for Diana Ross? If you scrutinize Jay Leno and David Letterman the same way you scrutinize me, then I'll agree with you, but if you don't touch them white folks don't touch me. They say whatever they want to say every night.[12]

The majority of Mooney's performance was edited out of the televised broadcast and not aired.[10]

"The N-Word"[edit]

On November 26, 2006, Mooney appeared on CNN and talked about how he would stop using the word "nigga" due to Michael Richards's outbursts on stage at the Laugh Factory.[13] He referred to Richards as having become "his Dr. Phil" and "cured" him of the use of the epithet. Mooney also said, "We're gonna stop using the n-word. I'm gonna stop using it. I'm not gonna use it again and I'm not gonna use the b-word. And we're gonna put an end to the n-word. Just say no to the n-word. We want all human beings throughout the world to stop using the n-word."[citation needed]

On November 30, Mooney elaborated upon these remarks from his appearance on CNN as a guest of Farai Chideya on the National Public Radio program News & Notes.[14] He declared that he would convene a conference on this controversial subject in the near future, as well as perform his first "n-free" comedy in the upcoming days.[14]

That show, which he performed at the Lincoln Theater following a set by Dick Gregory, took place on December 2, 2006. Mooney almost made it through his entire set—about an hour of jokes—before he mistakenly used the word in a routine on O. J. Simpson. He ran off stage covering his face in his hands, and walked back on a few moments later saying, "I'm really going to get it now. This is probably already on the Internet." On the BET special 25 Events that Mis-Shaped Black America, Mooney reiterated that he was no longer using the word. He was quoted as saying, "I am no longer going to use the n-word. Instead of saying 'What's up my nigga,' say 'What's up my Michael Richards.'" At a summit with Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton and Richards, Mooney forgave Richards.[15]

Personal life[edit]

In an August 2019 interview with Comedy Hype, Richard Pryor's ex-bodyguard, Rashon Khan, alleged that Mooney had molested Pryor's son, Richard Pryor Jr., when Pryor Jr. was a child. 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 incident.[16][17] Richard Pryor Jr. has confirmed he was raped, but did not mention Mooney by name as his alleged rapist.[17][18][19]


On May 19, 2021, Mooney died of a heart attack at his home in Oakland, California, at the age of 79.[20][21]



Year Title Role Notes
1970 Carter's Army Soldier uncredited
1972 F.T.A. Himself documentary
1977 Which Way Is Up? Inspector
1978 The Buddy Holly Story Sam Cooke
1981 Bustin' Loose Marvin
1985 Brewster's Millions Production consultant
1986 Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling Writer
1987 Hollywood Shuffle President of NAACP
1994 The Legend of Dolemite Himself
1994 In the Army Now Lt. Col. Peter Hume
1998 High Freakquency Love Doctor
2000 Bamboozled Junebug
2001 The Old Settler Man at Counter
2001 Call Me Claus Writer
2002 The Ketchup King Padro Buyers
2003 DysFunktional Family Consultant
2003 Bitter Jester Himself documentary
2004 The N-Word Himself documentary
2002 Paul Mooney: Analyzing White America Himself
2006 Know Your History: Jesus Is Black; So Was Cleopatra Himself
2007 Homie Spumoni George
2009 Good Hair Himself documentary
2010 It's the End of the World Himself
2012 The Godfather of Comedy Himself
2014 Hidden Colors 3: The Rules of Racism Himself
2016 Meet the Blacks Klansman


Year Title Role Notes
1972 Sanford and Son Writer; 3 episodes
1974 Good Times Writer
1975 Saturday Night Live Writer; Episode: "Richard Pryor/Gil Scott-Heron"[22]
1977 The Richard Pryor Show Actor Writer; 4 episodes
1984 Pryor's Place Writer; 4 episodes
1990–94 In Living Color Writer; 16 episodes
1995 The Larry Sanders Show Clyde Episode: "Beverly and the Prop Job"
2003 Chappelle's Show Negrodamus Actor; 2 episodes
Writer; 3 episodes
2004 Judge Mooney Judge Mooney Actor/Writer; 7 episodes[23]



In his book Black Is the New White, Mooney talks about his partnership with Richard Pryor, from their first meeting to Pryor's death in 2005.[1] Mooney reflects on his childhood and some of the most notorious moments in his life, including organizing a performers' strike on the Comedy Store and publicly giving up the n-word after Michael Richards' onstage outburst. It features a foreword written by Dave Chappelle.[24]


  1. ^ a b c Ryfle, Steve (March 26, 2010). "Richard Pryor's Designated Writer: An Interview With Paul Mooney". PopMatters.
  2. ^ "7 Television Shows You Didn't Know Paul Mooney Wrote For". Essence. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  3. ^ Conan, Neal (December 8, 2009). "Mooney's Memories: 'Black Is The New White'". National Public Radio.
  4. ^ Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. pp. 36, 44. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8.
  5. ^ Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. p. 49. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8. I see LaVoya, my real mother, more than I ever did in Shreveport. My father George Gladney stayed in Shreveport and faded out of my life,
  6. ^ Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8.
  7. ^ Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8.
  8. ^ Cornish, Stephanie (October 30, 2015). "Dick Gregory, Paul Mooney to Perform at Washington's Howard Theatre". AFRO American Newspapers. Retrieved July 6, 2023.
  9. ^ a b Reeves, Marcus (May 20, 2014). "Paul Mooney Suffering From Prostate Cancer". BET.
  10. ^ a b Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. p. 239. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8.
  11. ^ Reid, Jacque (June 25, 2011). "So Funny It Hurts? Comedians Who Go Too Far". The Root. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
  12. ^ a b "Comedian Paul Mooney's Outrageous Attack On Diana Ross At BET Awards Taping: A Freaked out, Tracee Ellis Ross, Was in the Audience". EURweb.com. September 26, 2005. Archived from the original on December 24, 2008.
  13. ^ Anderson, Brooke (November 28, 2006). "The racist rant heard 'round the world". CNN.
  14. ^ a b "When the 'N' Word Is Part of a Routine". NPR. November 30, 2006.
  15. ^ Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. p. 245. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8.
  16. ^ Evans, Gavin (August 26, 2019). "Richard Pryor's Ex-Bodyguard Says Comic Wanted Paul Mooney Killed Because He Slept With His Son (UPDATE)". Complex. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  17. ^ a b Stolworthy, Jacob (May 19, 2021). "Paul Mooney death: Actor and comedy writing partner of Richard Pryor dies, aged 79". The Independent. Archived from the original on May 25, 2022. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  18. ^ "Richard Pryor Jr. Says He Was Molested, Mooney Again Denies Claims". TMZ. August 27, 2019. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  19. ^ Shropshire, Terry (August 28, 2019). "Richard Pryor's widow backs claims that Paul Mooney raped Richard Pryor Jr". Rolling Out. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  20. ^ Evans, Greg (May 19, 2021). "Paul Mooney Dies: Trailblazing Comedian, Writing Partner Of Richard Pryor Was 79". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  21. ^ Parker, Ryan (May 19, 2021). "Paul Mooney, Pioneering Comic and Actor, Dies 79". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  22. ^ Henry, David; Henry, Joe (November 3, 2013). "Saturday Night Live and Richard Pryor: The untold story behind SNL's edgiest sketch ever". Salon. Retrieved February 22, 2015. Richard insisted that they hire Paul Mooney as his writer. His ex-wife, Shelley, and his new girlfriend, Kathy McKee, both had to be on the show.
  23. ^ "BET series slate stays close to script". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  24. ^ Black Is the New White. Simon & Schuster. July 6, 2010. ISBN 9781416587965.

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