The Okayplayer Interview: Comic Genius Paul Mooney Talks About Doing Stand Up In 2014

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Paul Mooney talks about doing stand up comedy in 2014

Paul Mooney talks about doing stand up comedy in 2014

In case you didn’t get the memo, comedy wizard Paul Mooney is on the road again, playing a rare series of bicoastal stand up dates. The Okayplayer generation may know Mr. Mooney best as Negrodamus and the archetypal ‘black dude’ of the “Ask A Black Dude” sketches on Chappelle’s Show. But those (brilliant, hilarious) moments are just the tip of an iceberg of comic genius which extends far below the placid surface of Mr. Mooney’s mercurial smile. His career began, in fact, with the fairy tale beginning (literally true in this case) of running away to join the circus–The Charles Grody Circus, to be exact–famously becoming the first African-American ringmaster in U.S. history. He hit the heights of comedy fame as Richard Pryor‘s writing partner, providing material for Pryor’s SNL appearance, the groundbreaking  Live On Sunset Strip album as well the biographical film Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling. Mooney was also head writer for The Richard Pryor Show and In Living Color, in which roles he gave talents such as Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, John Witherspoon and Jim Carey (among many others) their first breaks.

More recently, he co-starred with Damon Wayans (not to mention Mos Def and The Roots!) in Spike Lee‘s film Bamboozled and is currently working with Showtime on his appropriately named live taping The Godfather of Comedy. If you’re in Oakland, CA you can catch him tonight or tomorrow (Fri April 18 @ 8pm & 10:30pm and Sat April 19 @ 8pm & 10:30pm) at Yoshi’s Jazz Club and then he touches down in New York for a Mother’s Day Weekend appearance at B.B. Kings on Saturday, May 10th. Okayplayer could not pass up the opportunity to pick Mr. Mooney’s multimillion dollar brain on how doing stand up in 2014 compares with comedy eras past, how the current political scene informs his new material and whether he’s ever met an Obama clone. Speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles, Mooney is as thought-provoking in conversation as he is in his comedy and commentary, and gave us a glimpse of the restless–often subversive–intelligence that drives his humor, as likely to question the assumptions behind your question as give you a straight answer. Hit the links below for ticket info and read on to get Mr. Mooney’s answers–and even better–his counter-questions.

>>>Get Tickets For Paul Mooney At Yoshi’s (Oakland, CA) Tonight & Tomorrow

>>>Get Tickets for Paul Mooney at BB Kings (NYC) Saturday, May 10

Okayplayer: I’m curious to know whether you find that the material you’re taking out on the road now is similar to what people have known you for in previous tours. Do you find that it’s evolving–is it still of a very political nature?

Paul Mooney: It’s of the nature of honesty, that’s what the nature of it is! Someone had asked me the other day about what were the best times for me. The best times for me is now. It’s what I do, it’s not yesterday. Yesterday is the past. And it’s never tomorrow, it’s always today. Tomorrow never comes. It’s always today. It’s what goes on today, and it’s wonderful today because it’s so exciting. It’s exciting, everything’s exciting! I love the times now, I love it.

OKP: When you say you’re excited about what’s happening now, does that extend to the political landscape and the changes we’re living through?

PM: Well there are no changes. Everything’s still the same. Nothing’s changed politically or racially but the weather. Everything is still the same. We’re still on planet Earth, aren’t we?

OKP: Think so.

PM: Yeah, so it’s still the same. It’s just done in a different form now. That’s all.

OKP: As someone who’s equally famous for your own voice as a stand-up comedian and commentator on the one hand and also as a writer for others, do you find that you have a preference between the two? Is one more satisfying for you? 

PM: No, I wear different hats and every hat that I wear, I wear well. It’s just what I do. It’s all I’m excited about. I’ve been on both sides of the area so that’s why I’m very aware of what goes on.

OKP: It’s a very different climate for comedy these days–do you find that the audiences you’re meeting when you go out on the road are different than previous eras?

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