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Mac, Bernie

Mac, Bernie

1958—

Actor, comedian

From the crime-ridden streets of Chicago's South Side to the red-carpeted runways of Hollywood premieres, comedian Bernie Mac has risen to the top of his game by being true to himself and doing what he loves. "I just get up there and dig deep into my heart and let it go," he told The Florida Times-Union of his performances, "That's what I'm meant to do." Those are pretty sensitive words from a comic whose raw, in-your-face style prompted the Daytona Beach News Journal to write, "Mac, a maniacally evil glint in his eyes at all times, is a walking, sex-scene-spouting parody of conformity." However, as raunchy and strong as his comic style has been, Mac has always communicated a definite point. A family man at heart, Mac has also maintained respect for his audience, his community, and himself. He told Jet that, despite his liberal use of four-letter words, "I talk about self-respect." He solidified that particular point from 2001 to 2006 during his five-season run as a tough-loving father on The Bernie Mac Show. From stand-up stage and television, Mac's popularity grew so much that by the early 2000s he had become a full-fledged film headliner.

Developed Natural Comic Talent

Bernie Mac was born on October 5, 1958, and raised on the South Side of Chicago. Almost from the start he was destined to be a comic. He was just four when he witnessed his mother laughing until she cried as she watched Bill Cosby perform on television. The power Cosby had to elicit such reaction made an impact on Mac. He quickly became the family clown. He told the New York Daily News, "I did two hours at my grandfather's funeral…. They asked me to say a few words, and I just started doing him. Imitating his walk and his laugh, and repeating his favorite line: ‘I'l kil'yu.’" By the time he graduated high school, his comic reputation was intact, even if he wasn't ready for it. Voted class clown by his fellow students, Mac turned the title down. "I thought it was an insult," he told Entertainment Weekly.

Mac's career started slowly. It's not that he wasn't funny enough, he just wasn't very committed. He worked a series of menial jobs to pay the rent and did impromptu stand-up in the subways, eliciting tips for laughs in between the rush of trains coming and going. Sadly, it took devastating losses to get his career off the platform and on track. An unfortunate series of accidents and illnesses claimed the lives of several close family members. He lost his mother, both of his brothers, his grandmother, and a close personal friend. He often pointed to his losses as the trigger that made him finally decide to focus on his first calling—his career as a comic.

Mac quickly became a well-known comic in a town that is well known for comedy. His fame in Chicago was enough to score him a spot on HBO's Def Comedy Jam. Damon Wayans was the host the night of Mac's appearance. Mac not only won over the audience, but Wayans as well. Before he knew it, he had a role in Wayans's 1992 film Mo' Money. The movie was instantly forgettable, but Mac wasn't. Over the next few years, he would appear in many films. Because he was a comic, he was often cast as a funny sideman.

However, he proved himself in dramatic roles as well, most notably as "Flip," a homeless ex-basketball star in 1994's Above the Rim. Of that film he told the New York Daily News, "Where you start is where you end up….So before I got typecast, I wanted to establish that I can go deep." However, on the small screen, it was comedy all the way. He made appearances on The Arsenio Hall Show, hosted an episode of NBC's Later, had a recurring role on the teen hit Moesha, and wrote and starred in his own HBO show, Midnight Mac, which was nominated for a Cable Ace Award.

Even as his small and large screen careers were taking off, Mac stepped up his live performance schedule. With his newfound fame, he could now headline at major comedy clubs and theaters across the country. At one point he was touring almost forty weeks out of the year. This was the early and mid-1990s when black comedians were the talk of the entertainment world. In a 1994 article Jet noted that black comics "are among the hottest on the comedy circuit." In Living Color, Showtime at the Apollo, and Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam were drawing massive audiences and black comics were becoming stars.

It was a great time for comedy, but some critics noted that it was also a time of the re-segregation of comedy. Few whites were in the audience. "Segregated comedy is sad," Mac told The Florida Times-Union, "People are missing out. The world isn't all black or all white." He reiterated that view in a later interview with Jet, "I don't consider myself a Black Comic, I don't consider myself a White Comic. I consider myself a comedian…. I can make them all laugh."

Became an Original King of Comedy

In 1997 Mac joined four other comics and began the tour that would propel him into the realm of comedic royalty. Along with Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, and Cedric the Entertainer, Mac embarked on the comedy tour, The Original Kings of Comedy. The show, created by promoter Walter Latham, was two and a half hours of gut-splitting, howling good laughter. "It reminds you of when you were a kid and someone jumped on you to tickle you," Harvey told Jet. "After a while you just want him to stop. You can't take no more. That's what coming to see this show is like."

Audiences across the country could take more, a lot more, and Kings was the first comedy show ever to move from headlining theaters and small arenas to commanding full houses at rock concert-sized coliseums. Within months after forming, the troupe started selling out 11,000 seat stadiums and went on to become the highest grossing comedy tour in history, drawing over $40 million since its inception. In considering the tour's success, Mac offered a sociological reason. "We're doctors. We're medicine. We're something a lot of people wish they could be," he told Jet. "People come and can forget about their hardships. The world is hurting. Most of the people who come may be crying and arguing, but they come to get away and to laugh for a couple of hours."

The show's success drew the attention of director Spike Lee, and in February of 2000 he headed to the Charlotte, North Carolina, show with 12 cameras, producing one of Hollywood's most unexpected hits, the film The Original Kings of Comedy. The film provided Mac with a much wider—and whiter—audience and poised him for even greater success.

Fame Spread

His fame spread like spring fever since his stand-up days on the Chicago subway. In 2001, Mac filmed the much-anticipated remake of Ocean's Eleven with heavy-hitters Matt Damon, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt. The heist film was such a hit that Mac later participated in Ocean's Twelve in 2004 and Ocean's Thirteen in 2007. The third sequel, Mac confided to Kali N. Gross of Blackfilm.com, was "the best movie I've ever done in my life. No question." The sequels, along with Mac's appearance as Bosley in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle in 2003, marked an important transition for Mac, from comedian and actor enjoyed by mainly black audiences to a broadly liked popular entertainer.

Yet as he developed a film career, Mac remained an active comedian, wrote books, and landed his own television show. Mac's first book, I Ain't Scared of You, released in 2001. In it he shared his opinions about family, his comedy and film career, marriage, and sports. He followed this book with a memoir in 2004 entitled, Maybe You Never Cry Again, in which he shared the role his family and his faith played in his rise to fame.

At a Glance …

Born on October 5, 1958, in Chicago, IL; married Rhonda McCullough, 1977; children: Je'Niece.

Career:

Stand-up comic, 1976-2007; actor, 1992-.

Awards:

Peabody Award, 2002, for The Bernie Mac Show; ShoWest, Comedy Star of the Year, 2005.

Addresses:

Home—Chicago, IL.

What perhaps spread Bernie Mac's fame into households across the country most, however, was The Bernie Mac Show. Launched on the FOX network in 2001, the show featured Mac as the head of a household in which he and his wife raise his sister's kids. The scenario came straight out of Mac's real life; he and his wife raised his sister's children while she was in drug rehabilitation. Mac's blustery, hardheaded parenting style featured on the program made him stand out at a time when kinder, gentler parenting styles were in fashion. Mac never expressed regret for his unfashionable approach and in so doing endeared himself to viewers. "The Bernie Mac Show is my life. It's the truth, and I'm not ashamed of a minute, an hour or a second of my life," Mac told Television Heaven reviewer Mike Spadoni. The show earned two Emmy nominations and won a Peabody award during its five-season run, which ended in 2006.

Star Rose

Mac's star continued to rise. Mac's first starring role in a feature film came in 2004's Mr. 3000, a comedy about a baseball player who retires from his team after making what he thought was his 3000th hit to capitalize on his fame by creating a merchandising empire. When three he discovers that three of his hits did not qualify, he must return to baseball to restore his reputation and save his business. Director Charles Stone picked Mac for the role because, as he told About.com's Rebecca Murray, "This role is about a larger than life figure who displays raw candor and humor—and nobody exudes those like Bernie."

Mac landed a variety of other comedic roles in films during the first years of 2000. But by 2007, he navigated a new course for his career. He landed his first dramatic role in Pride, a film about a financially threatened inner-city recreational center that is saved by the development of a boys' swim team. Mac predicted his success in drama to Kali N. Gross of Blackfilm, saying "People say that comedians make the best actors in the business because they have the funny bones to make you and then flip their game around and make you cry. It's worked successfully for a number of gifted performers such as Robin Williams, Jim Carey, and Eddie Murphy, most recently. Now it's Bernie Mac's turn." At the same time he forecast his rise as a dramatic actor, Mac announced his retirement from stand-up comedy, marked by the release of his 2007 comedy performance 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 explained on The David Letterman Show, according to E!Online.

Selected filmography

Books

I Ain't Scared of You: Bernie Mac on How Life Is, MTV Books, 2001.

Maybe You Never Cry Again, HarperCollins, 2003.

Films

Mo' Money, 1992.

Who's the Man, 1993.

Above the Rim, 1994.

The Walking Dead, 1995.

Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, 1996.

Get on the Bus, 1996.

Booty Call, 1997.

BAPS, 1997.

How to Be a Player, 1997.

The Player's Club, 1998.

Life, 1999.

The Original Kings of Comedy, 2000.

Ocean's Eleven, 2001.

What's the Worst That Could Happen?, 2001.

Bad Santa, 2003.

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, 2003.

Head of State, 2003.

Mr. 3000, 2004.

Ocean's Twelve, 2004.

Guess Who? 2005.

Pride, 2007.

Ocean's Thirteen, 2007.

Transformers, 2007.

The Whole Truth, Nothing but the Truth, So Help Me Mac, 2007.

Television

Midnight Mac, HBO Variety Special, 1995.

The Bernie Mac Show, Fox, 2001-06.

Sources

Books

Mattern, Joanne, Bernie Mac, Mitchell Lane, 2006.

Periodicals

Daytona Beach News Journal, August 18, 2000.

Ebony, June 2003.

Entertainment Weekly, August 11, 2000, p. 42.

The Florida Times-Union, June 4, 1999.

Interview, August 2000, p. 57.

Jet, September 5, 1994, p. 34; September 20, 1999, p. 58.

New York Daily News, March 28, 1994.

On-line

"America's New Family Man," USA Weekend Magazine,www.usaweekend.com/02_issues/020414/020414berniemac.html (June 6, 2007).

"Bernie Mac Talks about Mr. 3000," About.com,http://movies.about.com/od/mr3000/a/mr3000bm090204.htm (June 6, 2007).

"The Bernie Mac Show: A Television Heaven Re- view," Television Heaven,www.televisionheaven.co.uk/berniemac.htm (June 6, 2007).

"Bernie Mac to Stand Down; Letterman Loses a Friend," E!News,www.eonline.com/news/article/index.jsp?uuid=5ca64aca-0ea1-43a8-a9dd46e1ecd78ab8 (June 5, 2007).

"March 2007: Pride: An Interview with Bernie Mac," Blackfilm,www.blackfilm.com/20070316/features/berniemac.shtml (June 6, 2007).

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Mac, Bernie 1957-2008 (Bernard Jeffrey McCullough)

Mac, Bernie 1957-2008 (Bernard Jeffrey McCullough)

PERSONAL

Full name, Bernard Jeffrey McCullough; born October 5, 1957, in Chicago, IL; died of complications associated with pneumonia, August 9, 2008, in Chicago, IL. Actor and comedian. Born in Chicago's crime-ridden south side, Mac was able to parlay success as a stand-up comedian into a film and television career that would crown him one of the Original Kings of Comedy. Raised by a single mother who died when he was sixteen, Mac knew early that being a comedian was what he wanted to do. After high school he worked various jobs, including as a janitor, school bus driver, Wonder Bread truck driver, and mover, before finding a job at a General Motors plant. Meanwhile, he continued to hone his comic skills, performing for tips in Chicago subways and at clubs and other venues in Chicago. Mac's big break came in 1990, when he won the national Miller Lite Comedy Search. He was then invited to join the Def Comedy Jam tour, which featured young black comedians. The tour was filmed for cable television's HBO channel and has been credited with the launch of many black comedians' careers. Mac followed his successful appearance on the tour with small roles in films such as Mo' Money and Who's the Man in 1992, House Party 3 in 1994, and an HBO special, Midnight Mac, in 1995. In 1995 he was also cast as Pastor Clever in Friday, a bit part that earned him a cult following and proved to be a pivotal role in his career. Mac joined the Original Kings of Comedy tour featuring popular black comedians in 2000. The tour was a smash hit, generating huge revenues, several television specials, and a film of the same name directed by Spike Lee. After several guest spots as Uncle Bernie on television's Moesha, Mac was offered his own show, and in 2001 The Bernie Mac Show made its debut, with Mac playing a tough-loving uncle who is raising his sister's kids. The show was an instant ratings and critical success, garnering numerous awards, including two Emmys for Mac. He juggled his television schedule with numerous films, landing roles in hit after hit, including What's the Worst That Could Happen (2001) with Martin Lawrence; the star-studded heist series Ocean's Eleven (2001), Ocean's Twelve (2004), and Ocean's Thirteen (2007); Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003); and Guess Who (2005) with Ashton Kutcher. In 2006, as ratings dropped and Mac received more lucrative film offers, The Bernie Mac Show left the air. In 2005 Mac disclosed that he had been battling sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease, since 1983 but that the disease had gone into remission and was not affecting his daily life. He announced in early 2007 that he was ending his stand-up career to focus more on his films and on his family; his death at age fifty was unexpected.

PERIODICALS

New York Times, August 9, 2008.

Chicago Tribune, August 9, 2008.

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Mac, Bernie 1957–

Bernie Mac 1957

Actor, comedian

At a Glance

Selected fimography

Sources

From the crime-ridden streets of Chicagos south side to the red-carpeted runways of Hollywood premieres, comedian Bernie Mac has risen to the top of his game by being true to himself and doing what he loves. I just get up there and dig deep into my heart and let it go, he told The Florida Times-Union of his performanees, Thats what Im meant to do. Those are pretty sensitive words from a comic whose raw, in-yourface style prompted the Daytona Beach News Journal to write, Mac, a maniacally evil glint in his eyes at all times, is a walking, sex-scene-spouting parody of conformity. However, as raunchy and strong as his comic style has been, Mac has always communicated a definite point. A family man at heart, Mac has also maintained respect for his audience, his community, and himself. He told Jet that, despite his liberal use of four-letter words, I talk about self-respect.

Bernie Mac was born in 1957, one of fifteen children, and raised on the South Side of Chicago. Almost from the start he was destined to be a comic. He was just four when he witnessed his mother laughing until she cried as she watched Bill Cosby perform on television. The power Cosby had to elicit such reaction made an impact on Mac. He quickly became the family clown. He told the New York Daily News, I did two hours at my grandfathers funeral. They asked me to say a few words, and I just started doing him. Imitating his walk and his laugh, and repeating his favorite line: Tl kilyu. By the time he graduated high school, his comic reputation was intact, even if he wasnt ready for it. Voted class clown by his fellow students, Mac turned the title down. I thought it was an insult, he told Entertainment Weekly.

Macs career started slowly. Its not that he wasnt funny enough, he just wasnt very committed. He worked a series of menial jobs to pay the rent and did impromptu stand-up in the subways, eliciting tips for laughs in between the rush of trains coming and going. Sadly, it took devastating losses to get his career off the platform and on track. An unfortunate series of accidents and illnesses claimed the lives of several close family members. Understandably, he has chosen not to speak in public on these grave personal losses. One thing he has shared is that as a result of the losses he suffered, he finally decided to focus on his first callinghis career as a comic.

Mac quickly became a well-known comic in a town that is well-known for comedy. His fame in Chicago was

At a Glance

Born in 1957, in Chicago, IL; married Rhonda McCullough; children: JNeice.

Career: Stand-up comic and actor. Film debut, Mo Money, 1992; appeared in over a dozen films; created and starred in HBO show, Midnight Mac, 1995; touring comedy show, The Original Kings of Comedy, founding member, 1997-00; concert film, The Original Kings of Comedy, 2000; television series, The demie Mac Show, 2001.

Addresses: Agent Marty Bowen, United Talent Agency, 9560 Wilshire Blvd., 5th Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

enough to score him a spot on HBOs Def Comedy Jam. Damon Wayans was the host the night of Macs appearance. Mac not only won over the audience, but Wayans as well. Before he knew it, he had a role in Wayanss 1992 film Mo Money. The movie was instantly forgettable, but Mac wasnt. Over the next few years, he would appear in many films. Because he was a comic, he was often cast as a funny sideman. However, he proved himself in dramatic roles as well, most notably as Flip, a homeless ex-basketball star in 1994s Above the Rim. Of that film he told the New York Daily News, Where you start is where you end up. So before I got typecast, I wanted to establish that I can go deep. However, on the small screen, it was comedy all the way. He made appearances on The Arsenio Hall Show, hosted an episode of NBCs Later, had a recurring role on the teen hit Moesha, and wrote and starred in his own HBO show, Midnight Mac, which was nominated for a Cable Ace Award.

Even as his small and large screen careers were taking off, Mac stepped up his live performance schedule. With his new-found fame, he could now headline at major comedy clubs and theaters across the country. At one point he was touring almost forty weeks out of the year. This was the early and mid-1990s when black comedians were the talk of the entertainment world. In a 1994 article Jet noted that black comics are among the hottest on the comedy circuit. In Living Color, Showtime at the Apollo, and Russell Simmons Def Comedy Jam were drawing massive audiences and black comics were becoming stars.

It was a great time for comedy, but some critics noted that it was also a time of the re-segregation of comedy. Few whites were in the audience. Segregated comedy is sad, Mac told The Florida Times-Union, People are missing out. The world isnt all black or all white. He reiterated that view in a later interview with Jet, I dont consider myself a Black Comic, I dont consider myself a White Comic. I consider myself a comedian. I can make them all laugh.

In 1997 Mac joined four other comics and began the tour that would propel him into the realm of comedic royalty. Along with Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, and Cedric the Entertainer, Mac embarked on the comedy tour, The Original Kings of Comedy. The show, created by promoter Walter Latham, was two and a half hours of gut-splitting, howling good laughter. It reminds you of when you were a kid and someone jumped on you to tickle you, Harvey told Jet. After a while you just want him to stop. You cant take no more. Thats what coming to see this show is like.

Audiences across the country could take more, a lot more, and Kings was the first comedy show ever to move from headlining theaters and small arenas to commanding full houses at rock concert-sized coliseums. Within months after forming, the troupe started selling out 11,000 seat stadiums and went on to become the highest grossing comedy tour in history, drawing over $40 million since its inception. In considering the tours success, Mac offered a sociological reason. Were doctors. Were medicine. Were something a lot of people wish they could be, he told Jet. People come and can forget about their hardships. The world is hurting. Most of the people who come may be crying and arguing, but they come to get away and to laugh for a couple of hours.

The shows success drew the attention of director Spike Lee, and in February of 2000 he headed to the Charlotte, North Carolina show with 12 cameras, producing one of Hollywoods most unexpected hits, the film The Original Kings of Comedy. The film provided Mac with a much widerand whiteraudience and poised him for even greater success.

His fame has spread like spring fever since his stand-up days on the Chicago subway. In 2001, Mac was busy filming the much anticipated re-make of Oceans Eleven with heavy-hitters Matt Damon, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt. Macs first book, I Aint Scared of You, was scheduled for publication in the fall of 2001. Also that fall, FOX planned to launch The Bernie Mac Show. Mac has been fortunate to gain immense success while working in a career he loves. In an interview posted on the theparamount.com website Mac said, Im not in it for the ego or any other selfish reasons. I do it because I love it. This is what I chose to do. Im in it to win it.

Selected fimography

Films

Mo Money, 1992.

Whos the Man, 1993.

Above the Rim, 1994.

The Walking Dead, 1995.

Dont Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, 1996.

Get on the Bus, 1996.

Booti; Call, 1997. BAPS, 1997.

How to Be a Player, 1997.

The Players Club, 1998.

Life, 1999.

The Original Kings of Comedy, 2000.

Whats the Worst That Could Happen?, 2001.

Oceans Eleven, 2001.

Television

Midnight Mac, HBO Variety Special, 1995.

The Bernie Mac Show (Pilot), 2001.

Selected Writings

I Aint Scared of You!, MTV Books, Fall 2001

Sources

Periodicals

Daytona Beach News Journal, August 18, 2000

Entertainment Weekly, August 11, 2000, p42

The Florida Times-Union, June 4, 1999

Interview, August 2000, p57

Jet, September 5, 1994, p34; September 20, 1999, p58

New York Daily News, March 28, 1994

Online

http://www.kingsofcomedymovie.com

http://www.theparamount.com/artist/mac/bernie/html

http://www.imdb.com

Candace LaBalle

Cite this article
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  • Chicago
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"Mac, Bernie 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mac, Bernie 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mac-bernie-1957

"Mac, Bernie 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mac-bernie-1957