Despite tense relationships with a number of pop-culture figureheads (Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric, Howard Stern, Tracee Ellis Ross, Time Warner), Paul Mooney is one of the most enduring artists in stand-up comedy today. His appeal stems not only from his acerbic — and honest — monologues about race relations in the US, but also from his writing. A former head writer for The Richard Pryor Show and Fox's In Living Color, Mooney helped develop such characters as the curmudgeonly Homey D. Clown, who does children's birthday parties as part of his prison work relief program. He penned episodes of several popular American sitcoms (including Good Times) and became a household name with his recurring role on Chapelle's Show, where he starred in such skits as "Ask a Black Dude" and "Negrodamus." Mooney's a provocateur. He often speaks in a punishing tone, doesn't mince words, and seems to enjoy watching people cringe. But he's also quite funny.
Take the opening of his 2007 film Know Your History: Jesus Was Black; So Was Cleopatra. After a four-minute encomium from such people as Sandra Bernhard, David Alan Grier, and Lori Petty, Mooney took the stage at the Laugh Factory, opening with a joke about slave auctions. "They made a mistake, I don't drink," Mooney said, handing his wine glass to someone in the audience. "That's what they like to do, get niggas drunk so they can sell them." Or his assessment of Michael Jackson: "Michael's not a pedophile. That would damn near make him normal." Or Aretha Franklin: "You saw her on Oprah. She confessed. She's a food-coholic. And she's big as a duplex. And just titties for everybody! She's in denial, just titties. And she wears feathers and feathers — she's too big for feathers. Who dresses this bitch — Big Bird?!"
Mooney is a browbeater, and his beatees include, in no particular order: white people, George Bush, all celebrities, Michael Richards, and at least half the people he's ever met. He takes great pride in being edgy (Mooney's answering machine greeting says, "You have reached the state mental hospital of the criminally insane. Mr. Mooney is now having therapy"), and he probably won't stop skewering people any time soon. He did vow to stop using the N-word after that now-infamous Michael Richards tirade, with hilarious results. At one point, Mooney announced he would sub in the words "Michael Richards" every time he wanted to say the N-word (hence the off-quoted Mooney-ism, "What's up, my Michael Richards?"). Paul Mooney will descend on the Black Repertory Theater (3201 Adeline St., Berkeley) for his "Black Man in the White House Tour," which runs Friday, Dec. 26 through New Year's Eve. $25-$100. 925-812-2787
Culture Spy - April 20, 9:52 AM
Culture Spy - April 13, 12:18 PM