Paul Mooney is one of America’s most irreverent and controversial stand-up comics. Born in Louisiana and raised in Oakland, California, Mooney literally ran away from home to join the circus. As the world’s first black ringmaster, for the Charles Gody Circus, Mooney entertained the crowds by telling jokes. This success in the ring led to him to pursue writing and performing comedy.
Early in his career, Mooney penned much of Richard Pryor’s stand-up material, as well as Pryor’s skits on “Saturday Night Live.” Eventually he became head writer for The Richard Pryor Show. Mooney is credited for giving many stand-up comics like Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, and Tim Reid their first breaks into show business, and has continued giving a leg up to up-and-coming black comedians.
Mooney’s writing credits include Sanford and Son and Good Times as well as the groundbreaking Damon Wayans show, In Living Color, where he invented the character “Homey the Clown.” As both a writer and performer, Mooney is known for his comedic performances in the “Ask a Black Dude” skits and as the seer “Negrodamus” on Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central.
As an actor, Mooney also has an extensive list of credits, including portrayals of Sam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story, the NAACP president in Hollywood Shuffle, and Junebug in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled. In the early 1990s, Mooney’s comedy album Race earned a Grammy nomination.
Mooney is an equal opportunity offender, whose comedy has been likened to that of the often-censored Lenny Bruce. His irreverent humor, often laced with vulgarities and racial epithets, is on the surface biting and acerbic, yet stings with elements of truth. Underlying his lampoons of American history, race relations, politics and culture is a philosophy that subtly and sharply exposes hypocrisies and jabs at sacred cows. Mooney’s humor is not for the faint of heart, but those who dare endure his barbs will find some frank and fair observations of human nature lurking beneath.