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Straight Talk

Comedian Paul Mooney dissects
race in America at SF show

By Nicky Baxter

Paul Mooney is the funniest nigga in America. He may also be the most controversial. His take on race will leave you laughing your ass off or send you packing. His show at San Francisco's Punchline this past Saturday (Feb. 1) left a mixed SRO crowd doing both.

Blackfolk and some few whites were whooping as Mooney took America apart bit by bit, so to speak. Others, mostly white, either sat limply or squirmed uneasily.

Like Richard Pryor at his peak, Mooney talks straight, but unlike Pryor, whose repertoire ranged from imitating animals to inhabiting the minds of children to discussing male/female relationships, Mooney's a race man. Period.

Perched on a stool and outfitted in a gray shirt and black pants, the comedian launched into his well-rehearsed act, sore throat only slightly hindering his delivery.

On Ebonics, the latest theory on Africanized Americanese blackfolk speak: "As if I don't have enough to worry about bein' a nigga, now I gotta worry about being bilingual. You must remember, standard English is a foreign language to black people. And I think we speak it goddamn pretty well. For you muthafukas to have made it illegal [during slavery] for us to read or write, I think we do it real well. And the stupid ass white folks who don't get it [slavery], fuck you. Thank God, you white folks weren't slaves; you never woulda made it. [Mimicing whitespeak] 'Oh, I just can't go on; I'll get a sun burn. Call my lawyer, goddamn it; we're not picking this shit.' Out there singin' 'Tammy'--niggas be 'Let 'em go.'"

Mooney probably hit a nerve when he remarked that at least some European Americans in the audience were ill at ease with his scathing humor. "White folks don't like me up here thinking I'm white bashing."

Breaking again into his imitation of white whining, Mooney continued, "Make that nigger stop saying nigger. He's giving me a nigger headache." Then he drove home his point: "Well, white folks you shouldn't have ever made up the word. You fucked up. I say nigga 100 times every morning; it makes my teeth white. But I'm worried about white folks. All this white-on-white crime. If you ain't killin' your kids, you're killin' you're parents."

Homey the Clown

As outrageously funny as he is, Mooney is not exactly a star-time act. He's appeared on Larry King's show and Robert Townsend's first HBO special, but by and large, he's been an underground figure. That may be changing in the near future.

Mooney wrote for the late Redd Foxx's Sanford and Son series, worked with Richard Pryor on his short-lived TV series and was head writer for In Living Color, coming up with the hilarious Homey the Clown skit, "Dial a Nigger" and the Two Toms. He is currently negotiating with Black Entertainment Television for a show of his own.

Among the seemingly endless stream of black comedians, few have the balls to say the things Mooney does. Mooney is convinced that there are unwritten rules about how the new jacks ought to act in order to satisfy the mainstream. He sees a lot of tap-dancing and bugged-eyed blacks on both small and large screens and is not particularly enthralled about it.

Paradoxically, Mooney has attracted the attention of Hollywood; he's just come up with a script featuring the notorious negro Whoopi Goldberg, with Garth Brooks (!) as producer. Which all goes to show, you can't keep a good nigga down.

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