Paul Mooney, a towering figure in the world of comedy and social criticism who brought a sharp eye and sharper humor to the subject of race relations, never better than in his collaborations with Richard Pryor, died today after suffering a heart attack. He was 79.

His death was announced by his cousin, Rudy Ealy, to CNN contributor Roland Martin, who said Mooney died at his home in Oakland, CA.

As an actor, Mooney portrayed singer Sam Cooke in 1978’s The Buddy Holly Story, played Junebug in Spike Lee’s 2000 Bamboozled, made numerous guest appearances on such TV series and specials as The Richard Pryor Show, The Larry Sanders Show and, more recently, Chappelle’s Show, Real Husbands of Hollywood. In 2004, he starred in his own comedy series, Judge Mooney.