Paul Mooney, Trailblazing Comedian, Dies at 79

Paul Mooney, the boundary-pushing comic and comedy author who made his views on race, racism and social justice abundantly clear as Richard Pryor’s longtime behind-the-scenes associate, a contributor to “In Living Color” and a performer and author on “Chappelle’s Show,” died on Wednesday at his dwelling in Oakland, Calif. He was 79.

The trigger was a coronary heart assault, mentioned Cassandra Williams, his publicist. Mr. Mooney was discovered to have prostate most cancers in 2014.

If you knew Mr. Pryor’s work, you most likely knew Mr. Mooney’s phrases. The two labored collectively on the short-lived 1977 selection collection “The Richard Pryor Show”; “Pryor’s Place” (1984), Mr. Pryor’s unlikely try at a youngsters’s present; tv specials; the album and movie “Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip” (1982); the autobiographical movie “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling” (1986), which Mr. Pryor starred in and directed; and Mr. Pryor’s 1975 look as host on “Saturday Night Live.” That episode included a now-famous escalating-racial-insults job-interview sketch with Chevy Chase, written by Mr. Mooney.

In an interview with The New York Times after Mr. Pryor’s demise in 2005 at 65, Mr. Mooney described himself as Mr. Pryor’s “Black writer.”

Paul Mooney was born Paul Gladney on Aug. 4, 1941, in Shreveport, La., to George Gladney and LaVoya Ealy, who were both teenagers. When Paul was 7, he moved with his mother and her parents to Oakland, where he was largely raised by his grandmother, Aimay Ealy.

Although some reports said he had taken his stage surname from the Hollywood actor Paul Muni, he corrected that in his 2007 memoir, “White Is the New Black.” His family loved nicknames, he wrote, and his grandmother just started calling him Mooney when he was a child.

Paul was 14 when he and his mother moved to nearby Berkeley. There, at a local movie theater, he won his first “hambone” contest, performing an African-American stomping dance that involves slapping and patting the body like a drum. It was then that he realized that he loved applause — and prize money.

He had his first taste of fame when he became a teenage regular on a local dance-party television show. After the Army (he was drafted and served in Germany), he came home to all kinds of sales jobs and, even more, to a future in entertainment. He did his first stand-up comedy (alongside friends who were folk singers), created a Black improvisational group called the Yankee Doodle Bedbugs, and joined the noted improv group the Second City. He also took a job for a while as ringmaster of the traveling Gatti-Charles Circus, which, he said, just called for looking good and telling jokes.

In “Jesus Is Black,” his three sons — Shane (whose mother was Yvonne Carothers, whom Mr. Pryor married in 1973) and Daryl and Dwayne (twin sons from an earlier relationship) — appeared as themselves. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

Mr. Mooney had strong opinions, even about himself.

“Whatever that thing is that white people like in Blacks, I don’t have it,” he wrote in his memoir. “Maybe it’s my arrogance or my self-assurance or the way I carry myself, but whatever it is, I don’t have it.”

Marie Fazio contributed reporting.

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