Paul Mooney had a long history in the comedy world and is automatically tied to Richard Pryor. A legend in the game, he was an actor before pivoting to stand-up and landing in Hollywood.
He ran with plenty of influential comics who came before and after him, some of whom counted him as a friend and inspiration. And Mooney played a huge role in bringing Pryor to Saturday Night Live.
As someone who experienced the highs and lows of show business, he once offered some wisdom when Eddie Murphy and Keenen Ivory Wayans had a disagreement.
Paul Mooney met Eddie Murphy in 1985
Eddie Murphy’s never been shy about his love for Richard Pryor, and he remembered meeting him for the first time a year before starting his run on SNL in 1980. But Murphy met Paul Mooney a few years later.
Mooney wrote about the encounter in his memoir, Black Is the New White, and said they were in New York on the set of Pryor’s movie Brewster’s Millions. It was 1985 and Murphy showed up on set as John Candy’s guest. Though Murphy and Pryor became friends, it took a while for Mooney to warm up to the young comic.
“I harbor a secret grudge because I feel as though Eddie has lifted some of my material, or at least did some sh*t that was similar to mine. Comics always feel that way whether justified or not,” he wrote. Mooney added that they eventually became true friends.
Murphy hilariously recalled the tension with Mooney during his March appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers, and said Mooney accused him of stealing his Amityville bit. Pryor brokered some peace between the two and it was history.
Paul Mooney mediated Keenen Ivory Wayans and Eddie Murphy’s beef
Just as Mooney took issue with Murphy over stolen material claims, a similar issue arose between Murphy and Keenen Ivory Wayans. Mooney wrote that Murphy had beef with Wayans, a friend and up-and-comer at the time.
“Keenen gets into Eddie’s sh*t over some material each of them claims as his own,” he wrote. “They talk about suing each other. I step in between them.”
“Don’t do it,” Mooney advised the two longtime friends. “It’s black-on-black crime, brothers,” he warned. Murphy and Wayans found a way to settle their issues without going to court, and they each enjoyed commercial success while preserving their friendship. Murphy asked Mooney to be the opening act for his 1987 Raw tour, and Wayans joined them on the road too.
Years later, the Wayans tried to woo Mooney to write for In Living Color. He declined the offer, but he asserted that they turned one of his catchphrases into a running gag. “Homey don’t play that” helped immortalize Damon Wayans’ clown character as a classic, and Mooney inspired the act.
Mooney recalled watching In Living Color with Pryor on occasion at his Northridge home. The two veteran comedians also gave props to the next generation of comics which included Murphy, the Wayans family, and Dave Chappelle.
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