It has been a rough week in comedy since we lost the other master of the deadpan delivery and a pioneer in Comedy for the world, not just Black Americans. Paul was at Cap City a few years ago during my birthday and I will always have a small amount of regret over not seeing him for the rest of my life.
Most of you probably remember him from bits on Chapelle Show for Dave was wise to enlist him. Mr. Mooney was an elder statesmen amongst comedians as well as a comedian’s comedian.
However, his most famous work was writing for Richard Pryor. Paul contributed to Richard’s stand-up, Richard’s short-lived show on NBC (not sure what NBC was thinking in 1977) and a well-remembered skit on SNL that actually made Chevy Chase funny, “The Job Interview.” My favorite bit I’m confident Paul had a hand in was Richard as the 40th POTUS doing a press conference which included John Witherspoon and Tim Reid.
Paul was no slouch with his own career. I recall he was the only bright spot in the painful movie Bamboozled playing the protagonist’s father Junebug, a nightclub comedian. Yesterday, I discovered he portrayed Sam Cooke in a movie I’ve loved since childhood, The Buddy Holly Story.
He also fought against injustice for all comedians by leading the 1979 strike against Mitzi Shore (owner of the legendary Comedy Store). Before then, Mitzi stiffed performers by saying they should’ve been paying her since her venue gave them exposure to Johnny Carson’s producers; back when The Tonight Show was the gatekeeper to mainstream comedic fame. It was sad to know Garry Shandling crossed the picket line, not so much with hack Yakov Smirnov. Paul was successful in getting Mitzi to finally pay but predictably, when the SLCM covered the story, they interviewed the friendlier (translation: not a scary Black guy) David Letterman or Jay Leno, claiming they were the striker leaders.
Lastly, I felt joyful tears with his passing as comedians of colors, backgrounds and styles brought up stories about how Paul shared his wisdom and took many under his wing.
Paul, I can never thank you enough for the laughter you gave me directly and indirectly. May your spirit carry into the future and be a factor in America getting its collective shit together on racial equality.