Paul Mooney, Pioneering Comedian and 'Chappelle's Show' Actor, Dead at 79

Actor and comedian Paul Mooney passed away early on Wednesday morning, according to his [...]

Actor and comedian Paul Mooney passed away early on Wednesday morning, according to his colleagues. Mooney's rep Cassandra Williams told The Hollywood Reporter that he died at his home in Oakland, California, at around 5:30 a.m. local time. He was 79 years old.

Mooney's family is expected to make a public statement on his passing soon. According to New York Daily News, Mooney suffered a heart attack early in the morning that caused his death. As the news spread, a statement went up on his official Twitter account reading: "Thank you all from the bottom of all of our hearts're all are the best!...... Mooney World .. The Godfather of Comedy - ONE MOON MANY STARS! .. To all in love with this great man.. many thanks."

Mooney is one of the most acclaimed social critics of his time. His birth name was Paul Gladney, and he was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1941 — though he moved to Oakland as a child. He took his stage name from the actor Paul Muni in the original Scarface (1932). Mooney took an odd path into the entertainment industry, making him all the more legendary in the long run.

Mooney began as a ringmaster for the Gatti-Charles Circus and soon found his way into the employment of Richard Pryor, who hired him as a writer. He co-wrote some of Pryor's most legendary stand-up comedy material and worked with him on films and TV as well. He then became the head writer for The Richard Pryor Show, where he was instrumental in giving A-list stars like Robin Williams their big breaks in the industry.

To modern audiences, Mooney is likely more familiar from Chappelle's Show, where he appeared on screen and not just as a writer. He was in the sketches "Ask a Black Dude" and "Mooney at the Movies," and played the fan-favorite character "Negrodamus."

Mooney found success as an author later in life as well with his book Black Is the New White, published in 2009. It was about his partnership with Pryor from their first meeting until Pryor's passing in 2005. Mooney continued to tour and perform stand-up comedy as well, though in 2014, he announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Fans everywhere are mourning Mooney on social media and reflecting on his legacy in the entertainment industry. Some of his most beloved stand-up comedy routines are streaming now on Amazon Prime. Chappelle's Show and Richard Pryor: Live in Concert are both streaming now on Netflix.