Paul Mooney death: Actor and comedy writing partner of Richard Pryor dies, aged 79

Buddy Holly Story actor suffered heart attack

Jacob Stolworthy
Wednesday 19 May 2021 17:20 BST
(Getty Images)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Comedian and actor Paul Mooney has died from a heart attack, aged 79.

The news was announced by TMZ to whom Mooney’s family confirmed he had died at his home in Oakland.

Paramedics were unsuccessful in their attempts to revive the comedian, who had reportedly been suffering from dementia over the past few years.

Mooney is best known for his working relationship with Richard Pryor for whom he regularly wrote throughout his career. Helping him secure the role of head writer of The Richard Pryor Show was his experience cracking jokes during his job as a ringmster with the Gatti-Charles Circus.

He also wrote some of Pryor’s jokes during the comedian’s regular appearances on Saturday Night Live. Pryor died of a heart attack in 2005.

Mooney’s film roles include singer Sam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story (1978) and Junebug in Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled (2000).

He also made appearances on Chappelle’s Show throughout its run, and was set to return before host Dave Chapelle left the show because of stress.

In 2014, Mooney was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but continued to perform standup routines on tour.

Five years later, Richard Pryor’s ex-bodyguard, Rashon Khan, alleged that Mooney had molested Pryor’s son when he was a child.

Paul Mooney wrote for comedian Richard Pryor and appeared on ‘Chappelle’s Show’
Paul Mooney wrote for comedian Richard Pryor and appeared on ‘Chappelle’s Show’ (Getty Images)

In the same interview with Comedy Hype, he claimed that Pryor once expressed a wish to have Mooney killed in a murder-for-hire plot due to the alleged incident. Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor, corroborated the claims.

Pryor Jr has since confirmed he was raped, but has never mentioned Mooney by name.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in