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Paul Mooney, Comedian And Writer, Dies At 79

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We want to take a moment now to remember a comedian and writer whose voice spanned generations.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Ladies and gentlemen, show your love. Give it up for the godfather of comedy, Paul Mooney.

(CHEERING)

MARTIN: Paul Mooney - he died Wednesday at his home in Oakland, Calif. Mooney was known as the godfather of Black comedy who dealt with race in cutting detail.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Sometimes it's in a joke that you can tell the truth. Mr. Mooney spent years behind the scenes writing on shows like "Saturday Night Live" and "Sanford And Son." His friendship with comedian Richard Pryor started back in the '60s when the two became close collaborators. Here's Mooney hosting the Richard Pryor roast back in 1977.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAUL MOONEY: When I met him, the first thing I noticed, he was very bright - two shades lighter than me.

(LAUGHTER)

MOONEY: Since that time, we've become old and dear friends. I'm very dear to him. He's very old to me.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID ALAN GRIER: Paul Mooney was one of these guys where you just wanted to sit next to him and just take notes. I mean, he was off-the-cuff hilarious and fearless.

MARTIN: Actor and comedian David Alan Grier worked with Mooney back in the '90s on the sketch show "In Living Color." And they used to do stand-up together, too.

GRIER: Paul performed until they literally took him off the stage. He would just sit on the stool with the mic and his little hat and just riff, you know. He was like the Sgt. Pepper of comedy, that you put the needle down at any place on the album and it was brilliant.

MARTIN: Here's a clip from Mooney's 1993 comedy album titled "Race."

(SOUNDBITE OF COMEDY ALBUM, "RACE")

MOONEY: This city is a trip. It's hard for a Black man to get a cab here. I didn't know - this is like New York and everywhere else. A cab just tried to run me over trying to pick up somebody white.

(LAUGHTER)

MOONEY: It's true. You'll have to hire somebody white to get one for you.

(LAUGHTER)

MOONEY: Some cold [expletive] ain't it?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MOONEY: I learned it all from my grandmother. I mean, I got my sense of humor from my grandmother.

INSKEEP: In 2009, Mooney spoke on NPR with our colleague Neal Conan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MOONEY: Yeah, my grandmother was very funny. You know, she used to sleep with a hammer.

NEAL CONAN: Sleep with a hammer?

MOONEY: Yeah, no, no, she did. She said just in case.

CONAN: (Laughter).

MOONEY: In case someone broke in and someone came in she didn't know, she had something for them.

INSKEEP: Now, at this point, you can be forgiven for saying, I never heard of Paul Mooney. He was often behind the scenes. But you may have heard of Dave Chappelle, who spoke with TMZ after learning about Mooney's death.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVE CHAPPELLE: I want to shout out every comedian on Earth and the best that ever did it. His legacy will live forever. Paul Mooney will be sorely missed and wildly remembered.

GRIER: Man, what an influence. Paul kept it real and kept it true and honest until the end.

MARTIN: Again, actor and comedian David Alan Grier.

GRIER: Paul Mooney is the one dude who I know I would like to sit next to him at his own funeral. That would be the greatest comedy special ever (laughter).

MARTIN: Writer and comedian Paul Mooney died on Wednesday at 79.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID AXELROD'S "GET UP OFF YOUR KNEES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.