Comedian Paul Mooney Dead at 79: Viola Davis, Ava DuVernay and More Pay Tribute

After news emerged that comedian Paul Mooney died at the age of 79, stars took to social media to honor the late legend. As Viola Davis wrote, “So happy to have witnessed your genius live.”

By Jess Cohen May 19, 2021 5:14 PMTags
Watch: Paul Mooney Dead at Age 79

Hollywood is mourning the loss of a beloved star.

Comedian Paul Mooney passed away on Wednesday, May 19, at his home Oakland, Calif., his rep confirmed to NBC News. He was 79. "Paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive him after he suffered a heart attack," his publicist Cassandra Wiliiams said in a statement. "He was staying with a family member who was a caregiver."

Mooney's rep also noted he "had declining health that came with age." Funeral plans are expected to follow. 

During his illustrious career, Mooney served as a writer on The Richard Pryor Show, The Rosanne Show, In Living Color and Saturday Night Live. He also appeared on Dave Chappelle's titular show.

As news of his death emerged, many stars and public figures took to social media to pay tribute. "Awww.... RIP comedy legend Paul Mooney!" Viola Davis tweeted. "You were both funny and poignant. So happy to have witnessed your genius live. Rest well!!! Pour down some laughter here. We need it."

Director Ava DuVernay wrote, "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."

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Take a look at the heartfelt ways stars are honoring Mooney below.

Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Holly Robinson Peete: "I'm so sorry to hear this. Few people made me laugh the way Paul Mooney did. He was a brilliant comedian and writer. You will be so missed. RIP Legend."

Jeffrey Wright: "Paul Mooney. Woah. My dude. Inspector Caine? Man. RIP."

W. Kamau Bell: "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."

Bootsy Collins: "Our Funky Comedian Brother Mr. Paul Mooney has changed Frequencies to continue the future of real comedy in another world! Thxs for the Gifts & Laughs u left us with. Prayers going out to his family & friends! Bootsy & Funkateers around the World..."

Pam Grier: "Paul Mooney was always the funniest light in the room...Peace will not be still...Paul keep em laffing...wherever you are....Love PG."