Back in the '70s, Paul Mooney dug up nuggets of comedy genius as a writer for shows like The Richard Pryor Show, Sanford and Son, and Saturday Night Live. In 1987, he opened for Eddie Murphy's Raw tour. He invented In Living Color's Homey D. Clown, and played both Negrodamus and the guru from "Ask a Black Dude" on Chappelle's Show. So, why isn't every TV addict in America groveling at the man's feet? Well, like Dave Chappelle explains in the introduction to Mooney's recent memoir, Black Is the New White: "Why isn't Mooney a mainstream star? ... Paul Mooney was too black for Hollywood!"
See the cut for a conversation with Mooney about racism, The Beverly Hillbillies, and President Obama.
New Times: What does it mean to be too black for Hollywood?
Paul Mooney: That's so funny. What does it mean to be too black for Hollywood? It's self-explanatory. Hollywood has certain kinds of blacks that they like. You know better than I do. You watch TV. You know who your favorite is. I mean it's like there's a certain thing that works. And I don't fit that comfort zone. I'm too on the edge. I'm too arrogant. You know, I'm from the South ... Too uppity. You can just name the ones they're so into, from Tyler Perry to Tracy Morgan.
There are still plenty of movie people peddling black stereotypes. I guess Tyler Perry's probably the most massively successful. Have you even seen any of his movies?
Of course I've seen his movies. That Precious ... Him and Oprah both should be taken out and horsewhipped. I mean, what Christian would read that script and say, "I have to put this up on screen." That Precious was The Color Purple 2. I was offended by it. All black males are offended by it. Listen, if you have money and you have fame, but you don't have any confidence in your blackness, then it's all for nothing. You know, Hilary Clinton could say she was a woman and running for President. And Sarah Palin could say she was a woman and running for Vice-President. But Obama couldn't say, "I'm black and I'm running for President." It couldn't come out of his mouth. He couldn't say that because, if he did, he'd lose votes. Do you understand what I'm saying?
|Paul Mooney - History|
Right now, there's this popular idea that, after the election of President Obama, America's become some kind of post-racial society. You must think that's bullshit.
I have said that they killed Obama the night he won. That's an android. It's a robot.
Were you an Obama supporter in the 2008 race?
I was for Hilary. You know, it was part of my joke. I had said she'd be President for the third time. That was very funny. I couldn't lose that joke. And then I met Obama when he was running. I was in Harlem and I was across the street and he called out my name. He said, "Paul Mooney! C'mon over here!" He was with Al Sharpton and they were coming out of a soul food restaurant. So I went over and I met him. Then it all changed. I said in my book that it was déjà vu for me, because he's got that same thing -- whatever it is -- that Kennedy had.
You met John F. Kennedy, too?
Oh, yeah. When I was kid, I met him and told him that he was going to be President. He asked me, why did I think so? And I said, "Because I've never seen black people love a white man the way they love you." Kennedy looked like the Marlboro man -- the old one, not the new one. He said, "Well, I hope you're right." And I was.
Did Obama know about your comedy?
He knew all about me. He said my name!
What do you think of President Obama's work in the White House so far? Has he made any of the changes he promised?
I think that he's pulled rabbits out of hats. He hasn't been in there not much more than a year. I think it's incredible what he's done.
There are a lot of people who think he's failed.
Yeah. Well, they don't like the idea of it. All these people can't be the same people who were here when Bush was running this country. They were deaf-mutes when Bush was here. They couldn't speak. I mean, it's a white establishment. And they were like those white people in The Planet of the Apes. They couldn't talk.
What do you think of the Tea Party movement? Recently, one of New Times' columnists, the rapper Luther Campbell, called them the KKK.
Yeah. That's old. All you gotta do is listen to the messages. That came from The Beverly Hillbillies: "oil that is," "Texas tea." The songs always give it away. Just listen to the subliminal messages, OK? The English used to own America and what do they all say when they really want something? "I'm gonna get that, by George!" George Washington, George Bush ... Listen to their dialogue.
Is it strange that some black people are joining the Tea Party cause?
I don't think it's strange. Listen, you have the same circle as the '50s. In America, it's set up that way. The circle just got bigger. It's the same syndrome. It's the same brainwash. With the Republicans and the Democrats ... That's all game. It doesn't exist. It's all some sort of fantasy. Of course, I'm not surprised. You have black Anglo-Saxons. Their skin is black, but their brain is white. I call them "graham crackers."
It's like people say, "You black people kill each other." You've heard them say that, now haven't you? "Black-on-black crime." But white people kill white people, human beings do it -- they're all predators. That's what they do. They kill each other. So I'm not shocked by it. I'm not delusional. Our blood is mixed on purpose -- mulatto. It's man-made. I don't know whether to just run away or kill 'em and run away.
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After years in the mainstream, there's been a backlash against the word "nigger." For one, Dave Chappelle started questioning his use of it. Should the N-word just die?
Everybody uses it. That word isn't going anywhere. I can only make the decision for me. I can't make the decision for other people because I don't know their experience. Dick Gregory told me that's what they called him and Martin Luther King when they were down in the South. The sheriff told him about Kennedy: "I don't care what that nigger-lover says, you cross this line and we'll shoot your black ass." That's what they called him and he'll never stop saying it. And that's his experience, I can't condemn him for it.
Paul Mooney. Thursday, August 12 at 8:30 p.m. Miami Improv, 3390 Mary St., Coconut Grove. Tickets cost $17, plus the Improv's usual two-drink minimum. There will be additional shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Call 305-441-8200 or visit miamiimprov.com.