Paul Gladney (August 4, 1941 – May 19, 2021), better known by the stage name Paul Mooney, was an American comedian, writer, social critic, and actor, best known as a writer for comedian Richard Pryor and for his collaborations with Redd Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and Dave Chappelle. Mooney is known for his acting role playing singer Sam Cooke in The Buddy Holly Story (1978), Junebug in Spike Lee’s satirical film Bamboozled (2000) and as Negrodamus on Chappelle’s Show. He is also known for his writing for Sanford and Son, In Living Color, and Chappelle’s Show.
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Much of Mooney’s material was based on the subject of racism in the United States.
BET Comedy Awards
In September 2005, Mooney performed a segment at the 2005 BET Comedy Awards called the “Nigga Wake Up Call Award”, in which he jokingly presents an award to African American celebrities who neglected their blackness to try and blend in with Caucasians, only to find out they’re still a “nigga” in their eyes. The “nominees” included Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Lil’ Kim, and Diana Ross. Mooney awarded Ross and made numerous jokes about Ross’s 2002 arrest for DUI. According to people who were in attendance, Mooney also made light of the death of Ross’s ex-husband Arne Næss Jr., who fell while mountain climbing in 2004.
Tracee Ellis Ross, Ross’s daughter and Næss’s stepdaughter, was also in attendance. She reportedly was so offended and embarrassed that she left the room. Backstage in the press room, Mooney was asked if he felt his performance was “over the top”. Mooney replied:
How can somebody get arrested for (being under the influence) and go to jail and I be over the top? I think that’s over the top, don’t you? Agree or disagree, folks. No, comedy is not over the top. When you are a celebrity and you do crazy stuff, that’s the game.
When Mooney was informed that Tracee Ellis Ross was in the audience, he stated:
I didn’t know … her mama could’ve been in there, that’s not the point. I didn’t drive drunk. Now I’m responsible for Diana Ross? If you scrutinize Jay Leno and David Letterman the same way you scrutinize me, then I’ll agree with you, but if you don’t touch them white folks don’t touch me. They say whatever they want to say every night.
The majority of Mooney’s performance was edited out of the televised broadcast and not aired.
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On May 19, 2021, Mooney died of heart attack at his home in Oakland, California, at the age of 79.
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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…
19: Mykhailo Dutchak, 67, Ukrainian conductor; Paul Mooney, 79, American actor (The Buddy Holly Story, Bamboozled), comedian (Chappelle’s Show) and writer, heart attack; Oguz Yilmaz, 52, Turkish folk musician, heart attack.
18: Franco Battiato, 76, Italian singer-songwriter (La voce del Padrone, Orizzonti perduti, Mondi lontanissimi) and filmmaker, neurodegenerative disease.
17: Michael Bruun, 70, Danish musician, composer and educator; Nicolas Ker, 50, French singer (Poni Hoax); Amarendra Mohanty, 63, Indian music composer and singer, COVID-19.
16: Patsy Bruce, 81, American country songwriter (“Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”); MC Kevin, 23, Brazilian singer-songwriter, fall.
15: Alexey Batashev, 86, Russian jazz critic, historian and writer’ Jacky van Dam, 83, Dutch musician and singer, lung cancer; Yuriy Yakovlevich Ishchenko, 83, Ukrainian composer and professor at Kyiv Conservatory; Ðorde Marjanovic, 89, Serbian singer, COVID-19; Mario Pavone, 80, American jazz bassist.
14: Sándor Balassa, 86, Hungarian composer; Ester Mägi, 99, Estonian composer.
13: Muhammed Ahmed Mansour, 91, Yemeni writer, poet and songwriter; Norman Simmons, 91, American pianist, arranger (“Wade in the Water”), and composer; Jack Terricloth, 50, American musician (The World/Inferno Friendship Society).
12: Herman Celis, 67, Belgian drummer; Bob Koester, 88, American music executive, founder of Delmark Records; Maran, 48, Indian actor and singer (Ghilli), COVID-19; Vladimir Redkin, 65, Russian opera singer and music teacher; Arturo Testa, 89, Italian baritone.