Paul Mooney Photo Shoot at The Apollo Theater- January 5, 2008

Source: Johnny Nunez / Getty

Comedian Paul Mooney passed away at his Oakland, California home on Wednesday (May 19) after suffering a heart attack. He was 79.

Roland Martin broke the news on Twitter writing, “BREAKING NEWS: Comedic legend Paul Mooney has passed away. His cousin, Rudy Ealy, just called me from Paul’s phone and said he passed away two hours ago after suffering a heart attack at his home in Oakland. He was 79.”

Minutes later, the news was confirmed on the comedian’s official Twitter account.

Born Paul Gladney, the Oakland native is best known as a writer for the late comedian Richard Pryor, his portrayal of Sam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story, and Junebug in Spike Lee’s 2000 satirical comedy-drama, Bamboozled.

Gladney coined the nickname “Mooney” after Paul Muni from the 1932 Scarface film. He began as a ringmaster at the Gatti-Charles Circus where he found himself telling and writing jokes. This eventually landed him his first professional work as a writer for Pryor in an appearance on Saturday Night Live and ultimately the head writer for The Richard Pryor Show.

The comedic genius’s jokes spanned over a variety of television shows and decades. He created the iconic character Homey D. Clown in In Living Color and Negrodamus in Chappelle’s Show. Gladney also wrote for the 70s popular sitcoms, Sanford and Son and Good Times.


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