Comedian and actor Paul Mooney dead at 79 after suffering heart attack

Peter Sblendorio
New York Daily News (TNS)
This March 29, 2016 image released by Meet The Blacks, LLC shows Paul Mooney posing at the premiere of "Meet the Blacks" in Los Angeles. 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, died of a heart attack at his Oakland, Calif. home on Wednesday. He was 79.(Eric Charbonneau/Meet The Blacks via AP)

Paul Mooney, the longtime stand-up comedian and actor who frequently collaborated with fellow comic Richard Pryor, has died.

He was 79.

Mooney died Wednesday in Oakland, California, at 5:30 a.m. local time after suffering a heart attack, his publicist confirmed to the Daily News.

“Thank you all from the bottom of all of our hearts ...you’re all are the best!” reads a tweet shared Wednesday on Mooney’s official account. “Mooney World .. The Godfather of Comedy - ONE MOON MANY STARS! .. To all in love with this great man.. many thanks.”

On the stand-up stage, Mooney was known for his commentary on race and social subjects in the United States. His “Race” album, released in 1993, provided Mooney’s unfiltered exploration of the topics.

“Paul Mooney. A comedy giant,” filmmaker Ava Duvernay tweeted Wednesday. “I recall listening to his RACE album in college and how formative it was. Yeah, the jokes. But more so, the freedom. He spoke freely and fearlessly about feelings and experiences others found difficult to express. May he be truly free now. Rest, sir.”

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1941, Mooney kicked off his comedy career writing for Pryor, and continued to work with the comedy icon on numerous projects over the years.

Their notable works together included co-writing Pryor’s famed comedy album “Live on the Sunset Strip,” as well was co-penning the script for the 1986 comedy-drama movie “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling” with Rocco Urbisci. Mooney also wrote for variety series “The Richard Pryor Show,” which aired only four episodes in 1977.

In front of the camera, Mooney’s work in film and TV projects spanned more than four decades and included a performance as singer Sam Cooke in the 1978 historical drama “The Buddy Holly Story,” which won the Oscar the following year for best adaptation score.

Mooney later played the character June Bug in the 2000 comedy “Bamboozled,” which was written and directed by Spike Lee, and appeared on several episodes of “The Chappelle Show” as well.

Mooney’s most recent acting credit came in the 2016 horror-comedy movie “Meet The Blacks,” which starred Mike Epps.

“Awww.... RIP comedy legend Paul Mooney!” actress Viola Davis tweeted Wednesday. “You were both funny and poignant. So happy to have witnessed your genius live. Rest well!!! Pour down some laughter here. We need it.”