Paul Mooney, the comedy legend best known for his regular appearances on “Chappelle’s Show” and roles in The Buddy Holly Story and Bamboozled, has passed away. He was 79 years old.
According to journalist Roland Martin, Mooney passed away on Wednesday (May 19) after suffering a heart attack at his home in Oakland, California. Mooney’s publicist confirmed to the New York Daily News that he died around 5:30 a.m. local time.
“Comedic legend Paul Mooney has passed away,” Martin announced on Twitter. “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. We will pay tribute to him tonight on #RolandMartinUnfiltered.”
According to Martin, Mooney had been suffering from dementia and was living with his cousin at the time of his heart attack.
“Rudy Ealy, the cousin of [Paul Mooney], told me that Paul had been suffering with dementia for some time and had been living with him,” he wrote. “Rudy said Oakland paramedics valiantly tried to save him after suffering a heart attack this AM.”
Mooney’s family also made a statement through the comedian’s Twitter account.
“Thank you all from the bottom of all of our hearts… you’re all are the best!” they wrote. “Mooney World… The Godfather of Comedy — ONE MOON MANY STARS!… To all in love with this great man… many thanks.”
Though he was hailed as a pioneering comedian, Mooney was also well known as a writer, social critic and actor. He first came into the spotlight as a writer for comedian Richard Pryor. Mooney wrote some of Pryor’s material for his “Saturday Night Live” appearance, his comedy albums and was the head writer for “The Richard Pryor Show,” which ushered in careers for many revered comics.
Mooney continued to tour his stand-up comedy routine through the early 2010s and released his memoir, Black Is the New White, in 2007.
See Martin’s tweets and Mooney’s family’s statement below.