Paul Mooney (comedian)

Paul Mooney

Mooney in December 2009
Born (1941-08-04) August 4, 1941
Shreveport, Louisiana, United States
Medium Stand-up comedy, television, film, books
Nationality American
Years active 1965–present
Genres Observational comedy, improvisational comedy, sketch comedy
Subject(s) African-American history, African-American culture, American politics, identity politics, current events, racism, race relations, pop culture
Influences Redd Foxx, Flip Wilson, Richard Pryor, George Carlin
Influenced Sandra Bernhard, George Lopez, Eddie Griffin
Notable works and roles Sam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story
Junebug in Bamboozled
Himself and Negrodamus in Chappelle's Show

Paul Gladney (born August 4, 1941), better known by the stage name Paul Mooney, is an American comedian,[1] writer, social critic, television and film actor. He is best known for his appearances on Chappelle's Show and as a writer for the comedian Richard Pryor.[1][2]

Early life

Mooney was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and moved to Oakland, California seven years later.[3] His parents are George Gladney and LaVoya Ealy.[4] Mooney was raised primarily by his grandmother Aimay Ealy, known among the family as "Mama."[5] Mama coined the nickname Mooney after the original Scarface (1932) actor Paul Muni.[6]


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

Mooney wrote some of Pryor's routines for his appearance on Saturday Night Live, co-wrote his material for the Live on the Sunset Strip, Bicentennial Nigger, and Is It Something I Said albums, and Pryor's film Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling. 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, Good Times, acted in several cult classics including Which Way Is Up?, Bustin' Loose, 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 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 stress, and it ended suddenly.

In 2006, Paul 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, it was announced by Paul's brother that Mooney has prostate cancer.[7] Mooney still continues to tour performing his stand-up comedy act.[7]


Much of Mooney's material is based on the subject of racism in the United States which disturbs some audience members. Such incidents can be heard on Mooney's comedy albums Race and Master Piece and seen in his DVD Know Your History: Jesus Is Black; So Was Cleopatra.

BET Comedy Awards

In September 2005, Mooney performed a segment at the 2005 BET Comedy Awards called the "Nigga Wake Up Call Award", in which he jokingly presents an award to African American celebrities who have had well-publicized legal troubles. The "nominees" included Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Lil' Kim and Diana Ross. Mooney awarded Ross and made numerous jokes about Ross' 2002 arrest for DUI.[8] According to people who were in attendance, Mooney also made light of the death of Ross' ex-husband Arne Næss Jr., who fell while mountain climbing in 2004.[9] 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 and was comforted by host Steve Harvey.[10] 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.[10]

The majority of Mooney's performance was edited out of the televised broadcast and not aired.[8]

Showtime at the Apollo

During a 2006 performance at the Apollo Theater in which Mooney was taping a segment for Showtime at the Apollo, his performance was stopped in the middle of his act, allegedly due to his criticisms of President George W. Bush. Mooney appeared on The Howard Stern Show on October 30, 2006 where he talked about the performance, including bringing in his road manager as a witness. During the act he made several jokes about Bush, including one likening him to the devil and one stating that his mother looked like the "guy on the Quaker Oats box",[11] and was immediately pulled from the stage. A 45-minute debate ensued in his dressing room in which they decided to cancel the rest of his act. Mooney was told that he had "offended unnamed officials from Time Warner",[12] which operates Showtime at the Apollo. A Time Warner spokeswoman called the story "ridiculous... it's absolutely untrue" that the company had anything to do with the incident. Mooney vowed never to perform at the Apollo again until he receives a straight answer.[13]

"The N-Word"

On November 26, 2006, Mooney appeared on CNN and talked about how he would stop using the word "nigga" due to Michael Richards' outbursts on stage at The Laugh Factory. 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." On November 30, he elaborated upon these remarks as a guest of Farai Chideya on the National Public Radio program News & Notes. 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.

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.[14]

Boston Marathon Bombings

At a performance in West Nyack, New York, on April 20, 2013—five days after the Boston Marathon bombings—Mooney allegedly joked "white people in Boston deserved what they got and (it was) OK to lose a few limbs... as long as no blacks got hurt it was OK." Numerous audience members stormed out and the show's producer "Levity Live Comedy Club" cancelled the remaining shows.[15] On April 23, Mooney appeared on the Opie and Anthony Show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, and denied he had made the comments as reported, particularly denying he said that "white people deserved to be blown up."





Black Is The New White
Author Paul Mooney with a foreword by Dave Chappelle
Country United States
Language English
Subject Memoir
Genre Non-fiction
Publisher Simon Spotlight Entertainment
Publication date
November 3, 2009
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 272
ISBN 1-4165-8795-0

In Black Is The New White Mooney talks about his partnership with Richard Pryor, from their first meeting to the last joke.[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.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Ryfle, Steve (March 26, 2010). "Richard Pryor's Designated Writer: An Interview With Paul Mooney". PopMatters.
  2. Conan, Neal (December 8, 2009). "Mooney's Memories: 'Black Is The New White'". National Public Radio.
  3. Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. pp. 36, 44. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8.
  4. 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,
  5. Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8.
  6. Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8.
  7. 1 2 Reeves, Marcus (May 20, 2014). "Paul Mooney Suffering From Prostate Cancer". BET.
  8. 1 2 Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. p. 239. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8.
  9. Reid, Jacque (June 25, 2011). "So Funny It Hurts? Comedians Who Go Too Far". The Root. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  10. 1 2 "COMEDIAN PAUL MOONEY'S OUTRAGEOUS ATTACK ON DIANA ROSS AT BET AWARDS TAPING: A Freaked out, Tracee Ellis Ross, Was in the Audience". September 26, 2005. Archived from the original on December 24, 2008.
  11. The Howard Stern Show, aired Oct 30, 2006
  12., IS TIME WARNER PRACTICING CENSORSHIP?, accessed January 12, 2007
  13. Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. pp. 242–243. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8.
  14. Mooney, Paul (2009). Black is the New White. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. p. 245. ISBN 978-1-4165-8795-8.
  15. Easley, Hema (April 22, 2013). "Comic Paul Mooney comes under fire for Boston comments at Levity Live show".
  16. Henry, David; Henry, Joe (November 3, 2013). "Saturday Night Live and Richard Pryor: The untold story behind SNL's edgiest sketch ever". Salon. Retrieved 2015-02-22. 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.
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