Bernard Jeffrey McCullough (October 5, 1957 – August 9, 2008),[1] better known by his stage name Bernie Mac, was an American comedian and actor. Born and raised on Chicago's South Side, Mac gained popularity as a stand-up comedian. He joined fellow comedians Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, and D. L. Hughley in the film The Original Kings of Comedy.

Bernie Mac
Mac on the set of Soul Men in 2008
Birth nameBernard Jeffrey McCullough
Born(1957-10-05)October 5, 1957
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedAugust 9, 2008(2008-08-09) (aged 50)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Resting place
MediumFilm, stand-up comedy, television
EducationChicago Vocational High School
Years active1977–2008
GenresObservational comedy
Spouse
Rhonda McCullough
(m. 1977)
Children1
Notable works and roles

After briefly hosting the HBO show Midnight Mac, Mac appeared in several films in smaller roles. His most noted film roles were as Frank Catton in the 2001 remake of Ocean's 11 and as the title character of Mr. 3000. He was the star of his eponymous show, which ran from 2001 through 2006, earning him two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

Mac's other films included starring roles in The Players Club, Head of State, Bad Santa, Guess Who, Pride, and Soul Men.

Early life and education edit

Bernard Jeffrey McCullough was born on October 5, 1957, in Chicago, Illinois.[2] Mac was the second child of Mary McCullough and Jeffrey Harrison.[3] Mac was raised by his single mother and his grandparents on the city's south side.[4]

Mac began his high school career at Chicago Vocational High School. During 1973, Mac moved to Tampa, Florida, to attend Jesuit High School following the death of his mother during his sophomore year.[5] Shortly afterward, Mac's older brother and his estranged father both died. Mac later returned to Chicago and graduated from Chicago Vocational in 1975.[6]

During his 20s and through his early 30s, Mac worked in a variety of jobs, including janitor, coach, professional mover, cook, bus driver, Wonder Bread delivery man, furniture mover, and UPS agent, while doing comedy on the weekends at clubs and parties.[5]

Career edit

Rise to success edit

Bernie Mac's influences were from The Three Stooges and listening to stand-up comedians Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. Mac started as a stand-up comedian in Chicago's Cotton Club. After he won the Miller Lite Comedy Search at the age of 32, his popularity as a comedian began to grow. In 1992, a performance on the 3rd episode of HBO's Def Comedy Jam thrust him into the spotlight; after Martin Lawrence was unable to calm an increasingly hostile crowd, Mac went onstage and told the audience "I ain't scared o' you mothafuckas" and that he "didn't come here for no foolishness."[7]

Mac opened for Dionne Warwick, Redd Foxx and Natalie Cole. He played a small role in 1994's House Party 3 as Uncle Vester. He also had a short-lived talk show on HBO titled Midnight Mac. Later, Mac also acted in minor roles, playing Mr. Johnson the no-nonsense owner of a grille and diner in the movie B.A.P.S., and "Pastor Clever" in Ice Cube's 1995 vehicle Friday. Following that role, Mac was chosen to play the title role in the 1995 Apollo revival of The Wiz.

Mac had his first starring role as "Dollar Bill", a silly, slick-talking club owner in 1998's The Players Club. Mac was able to break from the traditional "black comedy" genre, having roles in the 2001 remake of Ocean's Eleven and becoming the new Bosley for the Charlie's Angels sequel, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.

The Bernie Mac Show edit

 
Bernie Mac at the Transformers premiere in June 2007

In 2001, the Fox network gave Mac his own television sitcom called The Bernie Mac Show portraying a fictional version of himself. In the show, he suddenly becomes custodian of his sister's three children after she enters rehab. Mac broke the fourth wall to tell his thoughts to the audience.

The show contained many parodies of events in Bernie's actual life. Mac, who grew up on Chicago's South Side, was a fan of the Chicago White Sox, and would often sneak a reference to his favorite team in episodes, including enlisting then-White Sox pitcher Jon Garland to make a guest cameo appearance. In the 2005 season he wore a White Sox jacket and cap, and congratulated his hometown Chicago White Sox and their staff members on their recent World Series championship.

The show was not renewed after the 2005–2006 season. The series finale aired on April 14, 2006. Among other awards, the show won an Emmy[8] for "Outstanding Writing", the Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, and the Humanitas Prize for television writing that promotes human dignity.[9] His character on The Bernie Mac Show was ranked No. 47 in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time".[10]

During his run on the show, Mac had co-starring roles in Bad Santa and Head of State, as well as starring roles in the baseball-themed film Mr. 3000, and Guess Who?,a remake of the film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Later years edit

On March 19, 2007, Mac told David Letterman on the CBS Late Show that he would retire from his 30-year career after he finished shooting the comedy film, The Whole Truth, Nothing but the Truth, So Help Me Mac. "I'm going to still do my producing, my films, but I want to enjoy my life a little bit", Mac told Letterman. "I missed a lot of things, you know. I was a street performer for two years. I went into clubs in 1977 and was on the road 47 weeks out of the year."[11]

During this time, Mac was having success as a popular film actor, starting with an appearance in the 2007 film Transformers as the car salesman "Bobby Bolivia", and serving as the voice of Zuba, Alex the Lion's long-lost father in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. He co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson in the 2008 musical comedy Soul Men. These last two movies were released months after his death. His final film role was as Jimmy Lunchbox in the 2009 film Old Dogs which was released a year after his death.

Personal life edit

Mac married his high school sweetheart Rhonda Gore on September 17, 1977, and together they had a daughter in 1978.[12][13]

Health and death edit

Mac had a history of health problems before he went public with his health struggles. The first occurred in the summer of 2004, when Mac was filming both Ocean's Twelve and Guess Who while also promoting Mr. 3000. He was set to film the remainder of Season 4 of The Bernie Mac Show in October of that year. However, because Mac contracted pneumonia in both lungs and suffered from exhaustion, Fox halted production for four weeks so he could recover.

In the final 20 years of his life, Mac publicly disclosed that he had severe sarcoidosis, a disease of unknown origin that causes inflammation in tissue.[14] On July 19, 2008, Mac was admitted to the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in his hometown of Chicago.[15] After being treated in the ICU for three weeks, Mac went into cardiac arrest and subsequently died during the early morning hours on August 9, at the age of 50. However, the complications were not attributed to his sarcoidosis, according to his publicist.[16]

Legacy and tributes edit

Mac's public memorial was held a week after his death at the House of Hope Church, with nearly 7,000 people in attendance.[17] Notable mourners at Mac's funeral were Chris Rock, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Samuel L. Jackson, Ashton Kutcher, Don Cheadle, the cast members from The Bernie Mac Show, and his Kings of Comedy fellows D. L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Steve Harvey.

The first two of Mac's posthumous films, Soul Men and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, were released three months after his death and were dedicated to him. Mac's third posthumously released and final film, Old Dogs, was released a year after his death. The 2008 Bud Billiken Parade, which was held in Chicago on the day of Mac's death, was also dedicated to his memory.[14] On the day of Mac's funeral, his hometown's local television station WCIU-TV aired an exclusive television special, A Tribute to Bernie Mac, and had interviews with his former colleagues including Camille Winbush, Chris Rock, Joe Torry, Cameron Diaz, Don Cheadle, and some of his family members & close friends.

During Steve Harvey's television show which aired November 14, 2016, Harvey read a proclamation from Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaiming November 14 as "Bernie Mac Day".[18] Steve Harvey's guests included Bernie's wife Rhonda, their daughter Je'Niece, granddaughter Jasmine, and Bernie's The Original Kings of Comedy co-stars D. L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Guy Torry (who was the original host at the beginning of the tour). Mike Epps, appearing via satellite, along with the principal of Bernie and Rhonda's alma mater Chicago Vocational High School (CVS), revealed and unveiled the renaming of CVS Auditorium to the "Bernie Mac Auditorium".[19]

On February 14, 2017, Rolling Stone named Bernie Mac #41 of the 50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time.[20]

Filmography edit

Year Title Role Notes
1992 Mo' Money Club doorman Cameo
1993 Who's the Man? G-George
1994 House Party 3 Uncle Vester
1994 Above the Rim Flip
1995 The Walking Dead Ray
Friday Pastor Clever
1996 Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood Officer Self Hatred Cameo
Get on the Bus Jay
1997 Booty Call Judge Peabody
B*A*P*S Mr. Johnson
Def Jam's How to Be a Player Buster
1998 The Players Club Dollar Bill
1999 Life Jangle Lang
2000 The Original Kings of Comedy Himself Documentary
2001 What's the Worst That Could Happen? Uncle Jack
Ocean's Eleven Frank Catton
2003 Head of State Mitch Gilliam
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle Jimmy Bosley
Bad Santa Gin Slagel
2004 Mr. 3000 Stan Ross
Ocean's Twelve Frank Catton
2005 Guess Who Percy Jones
Lil' Pimp Fruit Juice (voice)
Inspector Gadget's Biggest Caper Ever Gadgetmobile (voice)
2007 Pride Elston
Ocean's Thirteen Frank Catton
Transformers Bobby Bolivia
2008 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Zuba (voice) Posthumous release
Soul Men Floyd Henderson
2009 Old Dogs Jimmy Lunchbox
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1996–1999; 2000 Moesha Uncle Bernie 9 episodes
1997 The Wayans Bros. Shank 1 episode
1997 Don King: Only in America Bundini Brown Television film
2001–2006 The Bernie Mac Show Bernie "Mac" McCullough 104 episodes
2003 King of the Hill Mack Voice, 1 episode
2003 Saturday Night Live Himself/host

Awards and nominations edit

Year Award Category Work Result
2005 BET Comedy Awards[21] Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show Won
2005 Black Reel Awards Best Actor, Musical or Comedy Mr. 3000 Won
2002 Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show Nominated
2003
2003 Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Nominated
2004
2003 Kids Choice Awards Favorite TV Actor Nominated
2004
2005
2006
2002 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
2003 Won
2004 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Head of State Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show Won
2005 Won
2006 Won
2007 Nominated
2003 PRISM Awards Performance in a Comedy Series Won
2003 Satellite Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Series, Comedy or Musical Won
2004 Won
2005 Nominated
2002 Television Critics Association Awards Individual Achievement in Comedy Won

References edit

  1. ^ "Bernie Mac". Biography.com. 27 April 2021.
  2. ^ "Bernie Mac Obituary on Legacy.com". Legacy.com. 10 August 2008.
  3. ^ "Bernie Mac Foundation". www.berniemacfoundation.org. Archived from the original on 2018-01-23. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  4. ^ "Bernie Mac". IMDb. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  5. ^ a b Savoy Magazine May 2002
  6. ^ "1975 Chicago Vocational High School Year Book (Chicago, Illinois)". Classmates.com. 1975. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  7. ^ "Bernie Mac | Hip Hop History | Official Russell Simmons Website". Russell Simmons. 2018-11-08. Retrieved 2024-02-22.
  8. ^ "Bernie Mac". Television Academy.
  9. ^ Bernie Mac obituary Archived August 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ June 20, 2004 issue
  11. ^ "Bernie Mac plans to retire his standup comedy act". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 2021-04-14 – via Associated Press.
  12. ^ "Mac, Bernie 1957". Encyclopedia.com.
  13. ^ "Bernie Mac News & Biography - Empire". Empire Online.
  14. ^ a b Le Mignot, Suzanne (August 9, 2010). "Actor and comedian Bernie Mac dies at age 52". CBS2Chicago. Archived from the original on October 21, 2009. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  15. ^ Bierly, Mandi (2008-08-09). "Bernie Mac dies at 50". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 2015-04-28. Retrieved 2021-10-05.
  16. ^ "Actor And Comedian Bernie Mac Dies At Age 50 - cbs2chicago.com". 2009-10-21. Archived from the original on 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2023-03-26.
  17. ^ "Bernie Mac's Funeral: "The Hottest Ticket in Town"". WhuDat. August 17, 2010. Retrieved 2013-02-21.
  18. ^ Swartz, Tracy (November 11, 2017). "Late Chicago comedian Bernie Mac to be honored on Steve Harvey's show". Chicago Tribune.
  19. ^ "Steve Harvey overcome with emotion as 'Bernie Mac Day' declared in Chicago". WGN. November 14, 2016.
  20. ^ Love, Matthew (February 14, 2017). "50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time – Slide 41". Rolling Stone.
  21. ^ The Bernie Mac Show – IMDb, retrieved 2019-09-22

External links edit