Comedian, writer, and actor Paul Mooney died Wednesday at his Oakland, California, home, according to journalist Roland Martin, who tweeted the news after hearing from one of Mooney’s family members. “BREAKING NEWS: Comedic legend Paul Mooney has passed away. 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”
Born Paul Gladney in Shreveport, Louisiana, Mooney began his career working as a ringmaster for the Gatti-Charles Circus, and got his start in show business proper as a writer for Richard Pryor. He also wrote for such notable TV shows as Sanford & Son and Good Times, and was the head writer for the first season of the Wayans Brothers’ In Living Color. Mooney appeared in such Hollywood films as The Buddy Holly Story, Hollywood Shuffle, and Bamboozled, and was known for his role as Negrodamus on Chappelle’s Show. After Michael Richards, who played Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld, gained infamy for a racist outburst onstage in 2006, Mooney swore to never again use the n-word in his work. Mooney’s rep Cassandra Williams confirmed his death to Variety.