Pioneering Comic Paul Mooney Dies at 79

Mooney was the head writer on "In Living Color" and made regular appearances on "Chappelle's Show" playing the future-foretelling Negrodamus

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Paul Mooney, a boundary-pushing comedian who was Richard Pryor's longtime writing partner and whose sage, incisive musings on racism and American life made him a revered figure in stand-up, has died. He was 79.

Cassandra Williams, Mooney's publicist, said he died Wednesday morning at his home in Oakland, California, from a heart attack.

Mooney's friendship and collaboration with Pryor began in 1968 and lasted until Pryor's death in 2005. Together, they confronted racism perhaps more directly than it ever had been before onstage.

When Pryor hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 1975, he requested that NBC hire Mooney to write the episode. Mooney contributed to one of the show’s most famous sketches, where Pryor attends a job interview conducted by Chevy Chase.

Mooney chronicled their partnership in his 2007 memoir “Black Is the New White.”

Mooney wasn't as widely known as Pryor, but his influence on comedy was ubiquitous. As head writer on “In Living Color,” Mooney helped create and inspire the Homey D. Clown character. He played the future-foretelling Negrodamus on “Chappelle's Show."

Mooney was also an actor who played Sam Cooke in 1978's “The Buddy Holly Story” and Junebug in Spike Lee's 2000 film “Bamboozled.”

On social media, fellow comedians and fans reacted to news of his death with tributes and by sharing iconic clips from his stand ups.

The Associated Press/NBC
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