How did Paul Mooney die? Trailblazing comedian dies at 79 in Oakland, fans mourn 'incomparable truth teller'

'He spoke freely and fearlessly about feelings and experiences others found difficult to express' a fan recalled

                            How did Paul Mooney die? Trailblazing comedian dies at 79 in Oakland, fans mourn 'incomparable truth teller'
Paul Mooney performs at 2005 BET Comedy Icon Awards in Pasadena, California (Getty Images)

Comedian, writer, social critic and actor  Paul Mooney wore many hats over his decades in showbiz, but unfortunately, his time has come to an end. The talented and hilarious comedian died at his home in Oakland after suffering a heart attack.

Mooney's death was confirmed by journalist Roland Martin, who will pay tribute to Mooney on his May 19 show 'Roland Martin Unfiltered'. Martin tweeted earlier on Wednesday, May 19: "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."



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News of the death sent shockwaves through social media, with many users getting online to pay tribute to Mooney. The beloved comedian became a household name for his work with Dave Chapelle and in the films 'The Buddy Holly Story' and Spike Lee's 'Bamboozled'. Starting out as a circus ringmaster, Mooney became a well-known face in the '80s and '90s, but never really achieved fame for tackling controversial topics such as race and politics. 

Comedian Paul Mooney performs onstage at the 2005 BET Comedy Icon Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on September 25, 2005 in Pasadena, California (Getty Images)

How did Mooney die?

Information about Mooney's death is limited at the moment. All we know is from Martin, who appears to be in contact with Mooney's family. After his first tweet, Martin put out a second and said, "Rudy Ealy, the cousin of @PaulEalyMooney, told me that Paul had been suffering with dementia for some time and had been living with him. Rudy said Oakland paramedics valiantly tried to save him after suffering a heart attack this AM." 


According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mooney suffered a heart attack at 5.30 am. More details are not yet available, but Mooney's representative said that a statement from the family will come soon. Mooney has largely been out of the public eye for a while, so there's a lot we don't know. Hopefully, the family's statement can give us some clarity. In the meantime, tributes have been pouring in on social media, as many mourned Mooney, and his ability to tackle hot-button topics at will. 

Comedian Paul Mooney and his girlfriend Stacy J attend the Baby Phat Fall 2006 fashion show during Olympus Fashion Week at Bryant Park February 3, 2006, in New York City (Getty Images)

'The incomparable truth teller'

Comedy Central tweeted, "He was brutally funny and brutally honest. Thank you, Paul Mooney." Comedian Kamau Bell tweeted, "I was lucky enough to open for Paul Mooney several times. It was a master class. It was like a Malcolm X speech that had been punched up by Redd Foxx. & then in the middle of everything he’d go off on a tangent about Jane Fonda. He was 1 of the greats. Rest in Peace, Mr. Mooney."



Filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted, "Paul Mooney. A comedy giant. I recall listening to his RACE album in college and how formative it was. Yeah, the jokes. But more so, the freedom. He spoke freely and fearlessly about feelings and experiences others found difficult to express. May he be truly free now. Rest, sir."


One person said, "RIP Paul Mooney. One of the most historic comedians of all time. The incomparable truth teller. A resume like no other." Another shared a memory of Mooney, tweeting, "Met Paul Mooney in SF when he performed a set that cause several people including my friends to get up and leave. I stayed for the whole set and loved it. He was painfully honest and hilarious."



"I remember, as a little kid, my dad showing me Paul Mooney’s stand up for the first time and I was just blown away. My dad said, “Now THIS is comedy.” and he was right," tweeted one person. 


Despite his absence from public life over the last few years, Mooney was still much loved, as the tributes show. His ability to speak unfiltered about race and politics certainly struck a chord, and are likely to reemerge in light of the current political situation in the US. 

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