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MISTER Paul Mooney


Paul Mooney, Angry Black Man, demanded respect.

But, he needn't have bothered.

His essence commanded it.

Tall, stylish, and handsome with smooth nut brown skin and a rich impressive baritone voice, he was impossible to dismiss.


Upon being introduced to him on my 22nd birthday by John Witherspoon on the very fist night I went to the Comedy Store, he responded to my hello with a Virgil Tibbs-like inflection on the proper way to address him.


"MISTER Paul Mooney."


Knowing instinctively that it was one of those "many a true word spoken in a joke" moments, I immediately "yessirred" him.


It was the start of a beautiful friendship.


I soon came to know that Paul did not just work the Store, he reigned.


The late night spot was his, and when he wasn't there we jockeyed for the right to work HIS spot.


But, he wasn't selfish, it's just that if you knew Paul, you knew it simply could not have been any other way.


His performances were not just exercises in humor, they were masterclasses in the comedic arts, taught by consummate artiste.


That he was witty, warm, intelligent and insightful was as obvious as the fact that he was a warrior using words to wield his all powerful weapon.


Truth


Paul was "where is the lie" before the phrase became a ubiquitous social media meme, and he courageously wielded his powerful truth arsenal in an era when even the threat of doing so as unapologetically as he did was enough to end careers before they started.


He was also generous.


Belying the pervasive myth of Black disunity among performers, Paul never hesitated to help others whenever he could.


When "The Richard Pryor Show" was picked up to series, it was Paul who called me, as he did with so many others of us who subsequently became regulars, got our union cards, and came to the attention of network executives, agents, managers, etc.


At a time when few women were given a fair shot, it was Paul who championed people like me and Sandra Bernhard among others.


And when called upon to write, he was unparalleled in his ability to listen and recognize the jokes you didn't even know you said, then give them back to you in a can't miss script of your own material in your own voice.


It was genius.


One of the things I'm most proud about having my own talk show was having Darlene Hayes produce it, and Paul Mooney as head writer along with Jedda Jones.


It was a small chance to return the many favors he had done for me.


Many people will speak of how his fearless forthrightness inspired or intimidated them, they will speak of how his humor entertained and enlightened them, they will celebrate or lament his unwillingness to accept bullshit.


Angry Black Man.


Damned right.


But, he wasn't angry at everyone, he was justifiably angry for people who didn't always have his way with words, his wit, his charm.


So, he spoke for them, and he will be missed.


I'm glad his suffering is over and he can be at peace.


But that peace will elude me for a bit because I can't get past one simple thing.


My friend died today.


I am sad.



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