Paul Mooney at the Sentinel Office Building
Paul Mooneyâ€™s new book BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE
Paul Mooney is back with his new book - BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE
By Brandon I. Brooks
Sentinel Entertainment Editor
By Tabia Shawel
Paul Mooney is undoubtedly one of the greatest comedians to ever set foot on stage. The crazy thing is most people don't really understand who Paul Mooney is and why he is arguably the most respected and feared comedian in show business.
Mooney's credits read like a Hollywood movie but that's shouldn't be a shocker considering Mooney has written for many of Hollywood's top programs throughout the years. Whether writing for Richard Pryor and Saturday Night Live, Sanford and Son, Good Times, creating In Living Color's Homey D. Clown and Chappelle's Show's Negrodamus, Paul Mooney's stamp on popular culture is much deeper than the surface reveals.
With a new book titled "Black Is the New White" Paul Mooney does what he does best and that's tell it like it is. Call him controversial or call him crazy, but no matter what you call him, just know he tells the truth.
In an exclusive one-on-one interview with the Sentinel, Mooney shared that he wants the readers to take home some history about themselves and about him and he also wants the readers to know about Hollywood, the real "Hollywood."
"That's why I call the academy awards, the prejudice awards, said Mooney. "It's been the prejudice awards. I don't care how many black people they give the award too. It will never catch up to how many white people have had it. We seem to put such honor in what white people worship. They don't care about the NAACP Award. They don't care about any black award. They don't even care about our Royalty. We have Kings and Queens in Africa, do you see them on the cover of Vogue? They are not interested. But that Queen Elizabeth and that Royalty stuff that comes from Europe, they're into it. It's their history and they worship their own history and then get mad at you when you want to worship yours."
Paul Mooney's perspective not only indulges on the candid view of the Hollywood scene but more importantly how he didn't let the so called fast life detour him from staying focused over the years. That's the only reason Paul Mooney has survived in Hollywood for so many years is because he separates reality from fiction.
"When the NAACP was not on television, all the little colored clubs in the neighborhood, I hosted. I was behind them," said Mooney. I was right there with them when they had no money. The minute they got on television they acted like they didn't even know me. This is my own people, isn't that interesting? They acted like they didn't even know who Paul Mooney was. But when they were to that curb and the white folks weren't all over them, now isn't that interesting (laughs)."
Just like his comedy routines and writings, Mooney takes the reader on a vivid and blunt journey. "Black Is the New White," is an open and honest frank perspective on Hollywood and how Paul Mooney maturated to become a legendary comedic genius.
It's enjoyable to read how Mooney was raised in Louisiana by his Grandmother. He shared with the Sentinel that his grandmother is the reason he keeps a close relationship with God to this very day. "My grandmother raised me so it came from her," said Mooney. "I got all that from her."
The Sentinel asked Mooney to share why he named his book "Black is the New White" and Mooney said that "Black people have turned into black Anglo-Saxons. Their skin might be black but their mind is very white."
Mooney discusses the narration of comedy in American history and the black community. Like many facets within society, the comedy world was a zone that was dominated by white folks. White comedians were accustomed to putting out material that was conditional, which served the comedic interests of one group of people.
The limited black folks that broke free from these constraints fit a mold that assimilated to this concept of unrealism. Black comedians were in essence "boxed in", where the trials and tribulations they faced in reality as a direct result of racism was negated. Black comedians were forced to be colorblind in a color conscious world.
Mooney labeled this the Bill Cosby syndrome. Black comedians that followed this Cosby style of comedic relief hardly spoke of an intricate part of the black experience in America: being black. The denial of a discussion on race in comedy was a practice that neither Mooney nor his best friend Richard Pryor could follow. Thus, Mooney and Pryor emerged onto the scene as the forefathers to ethnic humor displayed to a dichotomous audience with their gig on "The Richard Pryor Show". Mooney was the mind behind the skits while Pryor was the voice that delivered it to the masses. This combination of creativity that was shameless was the definition of real, perhaps even "surreal".
"Richard was the king of comedy," Mooney shared with the Sentinel. "It was Richard, it was him. He loved Redd Foxx, he loved Bill Cosby and I use to tell him Bill Cosby couldn't hold a candle to him. He was fascinated with Bill Cosby. But it's interesting because Marilyn Monroe was fascinated with Jene Harlow and all Jene Harlow did, was not wear a bra. That made her famous and Jene Harlow could not hold a candle to Marilyn Monroe. Richard was definitely the King of Comedy and I had told Spike Lee when they made that movie "Kings of Comedy," I found it offensive. I mean Richard Pryor was alive and the king isn't dead, how dare you! What nerve. But black people have penciled memories and black people are not very loyal when it comes to icons."
Black folks connect with the experiences that Mooney shares because they project the encounters of racism faced in day-to-day life. On the other hand, White folks are receptive to material that references slavery or displays ghetto antics through speech and behavior, many of which have been stereotypically assigned to black folks. Yet when white folks are the targets of humor, a defense mechanism is initiated and comics like Mooney are rejected. His research proved the depth of racism and how deeply entrenched it is within white America. America expected a coon or Uncle Tom-like character from black comedians. What they got was a soldier that was at arms with such stereotypical images of black men (and black people in general) in this country. America wanted a "Happy Negro". What they got was a combative nigger.
Black is the New White represents innovation. It is a book that captivates its readers through dialogue that educates and amuses simultaneously. Mooney essentially writes his book like he's talking to you, straight raw with no games and no gimmicks. His criticism is that of a man who endures lifelong struggles in an arena that makes him, black people, and all people of color continue to struggle in order to taste the fruits of labor in Tinsel Town. Paul Mooney is a soldier in the Black Struggle using his comedy as his weapon. Mooney is a free-spirited man who focuses on making comedy far from just reactionary, spinning it intellectually, and bringing it full circle humorously. He is a legend and his book will only add to his tale.
Paul Mooney is set to premiere a new comedy special titled It's the End of the World!: Know Your History Part 2 this week (Thursday, February 4, 2010) on ShowTime staring at 11:00PM. For more information visit www.sho.com