Conversation with James earlier today:
Crystal: Hey. Mooney is at the Improv this weekend. Wanna go?
James: Do you know if he’s using the n-word again?
Crystal: That’s a good question. I don’t know.
Allow me to explain. I’m a big Paul Mooney fan. I didn’t get hip to his work until Chappelle’s Show. Or, I should say, I didn’t know his name until Chappelle’s show. I’ve been enjoying his work my entire life, starting with his collaborations with Richard Pryor, moving through In Living Color and then Chappelle’s Show. I recently read his memoir Black is the New White (which is partially Richard Pryor’s biography) and learned he’s had a hand in even more of the haha than I’d realized.
(side note: Did you know that, in addition to co-writing the script, Pryor was supposed to play the sheriff in Blazing Saddles? Only the producers considered him too controversial for the role and went with Cleavon Little instead? Maybe everyone knows that. I didn’t until reading Mooney’s book.)
I’ve seen Mooney perform quite a few times over the past seven or eight years. The first time I saw him was epic. It was his second set on a Saturday night. He was feeling his oats, I guess, because it was the longest I’ve ever seen a stand up comic perform. (Actually, Mooney tends to perch on the edge of a stool, so he’s more of a leaning comic than a stand up.) I can’t remember now how long he was up there – I think it approached (or maybe exceeded) two hours. We could see the red light from where we were sitting, and it was glowing for a good 30 minutes. Then the management of the club started fucking with the lights and his mic level trying to get him off stage. It was like, the more they were trying to tell him it was time to wrap it up, the more determined he was to keep going. So he kept going.
Regarding the conversation James and I had this morning: after Michael Richards (Kramer) went crazy with the n-word at a comedy club, Mooney decided he would quit saying the word completely. This might not be a big deal for some people, but Mooney used it liberally throughout his speech. Like salt on popcorn. Constant. The last time I saw him was the first time since his self-inflicted boycott, and, man, did it interrupt his flow. It seemed like he must have had a constant loop running in his brain reminding himself not to say it, and that was providing distraction from what he was doing on stage. It would be like me eradicating “fuck” from my repertoire. Doable, but at what cost to pacing?
That was a couple of years ago, so it’s probably better now. Anyway. It’s a funny thing to wonder about another human being.
UPDATE: Saw Mr. Mooney at the Improv last night. His flow, it is back.