Paul Mooney smiles at a film screening in New York ca. 2006
Paul Mooney smiles at a film screening in New York ca. 2006
Photo by Paul Hawthorne for TV Land via Getty Images

Legendary Writer and Comedian, Paul Mooney, Dead at 79

The comedian reportedly suffered from a heart attack on Wednesday morning.

Legendary comedian, writer, and activist, Paul Mooney, has died. He was 79-years-old.

Mooney's death was announced Wednesday morning by journalist Roland S. Martin on Twitter. According to Martin, he was informed of the comedian's passing by Mooney's cousin, Rudy Ealy, who revealed the comedian had suffered from a heart attack early at his home in Oakland early this morning.

Born Paul Gladney in Shreveport, Louisiana, the comedian spent some of his earliest years observing a distinctly American brand of racism in the deep south. By the turn of the decade, Mooney and his family relocated to Oakland. The comedian began a storied run in entertainment as a ringmaster in the Gatti-Charles Circus, where he learned to craft jokes as the de facto master of ceremonies. Mooney's first major writing credits arrived in two episodes from the first season of Sanford & Son in 1972. A few years later, Mooney joined the Saturday Night Live writing team for Richard Pryor's 1975 appearance, commencing a decades-long collaborative connection. Mooney went on to write for Pryor's short-lived sketch show, The Richard Pryor Show, as well as the comedy icon's specials and films over the decades that followed. In the 2000s, the comedian was introduced to a new generation of viewers by way of Chappelle's Show, where he appeared in both the "Negrodamus" and "Ask A Black Dude" sketches.

Throughout his career, Mooney was known for his cutting stand-up sets and the activism threaded into each punchline. He released four stand-up specials in the last 20 years, including Analyzing White America (2004,) Know Your History: Jesus Is Black; So Was Cleopatra (2007,) It's the End of the World (2010,) and The Godfather of Comedy (2012.)

This morning the comedian's family shared a note of gratitude from his Twitter account. "Thank you all from the bottom of all of our hearts," it reads. See the statement below.