Bernie Mac

Aug 24, 2008 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Comedian, Male Black Comedians

bernie_macEarly life

Mac was born in Chicago, Illinois, and was raised by a single mother, Mary. She died of cancer when he was 16 years old.[2] Mac attended Chicago Vocational Career Academy and started his comedy career during high school. He put on shows for neighborhood kids on Chicago’s South Side until briefly moving to Tampa, Florida.[3] During his 20s he worked in a variety of jobs, including furniture mover, UPS agent and bread delivery sales rep.[4]


Mac started as a stand-up comedian in Chicago’s Cotton Pickin’ Club. He won the Miller Lite Comedy Search at the age of 32, at which point his popularity as a comedian began to grow. A performance on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam thrust him into the spotlight. He opened for Dionne Warwick, Redd Foxx and Natalie Cole. He also had a short-lived talk show on HBO titled Midnight Mac. Later, Mac also began acting in minor roles and received his big break as “Pastor Clever” in Ice Cube’s 1995 film Friday. Following that role, Mac also worked in many other films and had some television appearances in titles including, Booty Call, How to Be a Player, Life and What’s the Worst That Could Happen?. Mac was one of the few African American comedic actors to be able to break out of 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. In 2003, he turned in an impressive performance in a small but important role as “Gin, The Store Dick” in Bad Santa. He also starred in Guess Who?, a comedic remake of the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and made an appearance in the 2007 film Transformers as the car salesman “Bobby Bolivia.”

In 2000, Mac returned to his stand-up comedy roots, touring the country as one of The Original Kings of Comedy, along with Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and D.L. Hughley. The comedy act was filmed by Spike Lee and was included later in the film The Original Kings of Comedy.

In 2001, Fox gave Mac his own sitcom called The Bernie Mac Show, somewhat based on his own life. In the show, he suddenly becomes custodian over his sister’s three children after she enters rehab. It was a success, in part because it allows Mac to stay true to his stand-up comedy roots, breaking the fourth wall to communicate his thoughts to the audience. The show contained many parodies of events in Bernie’s actual life. However, the show was not renewed after the 2006 season. Viewers were left without a conclusion for the series, and no ending to the storyline where Bernie and Wanda were trying to have a baby. The show won an Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Writing’, the Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, the Humanitas Prize for television writing that promotes human dignity, and several other prestigious accolades. [5] His character on The Bernie Mac Show was ranked #47 in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.”[6]

In 2004, Mac had his first starring role as a retired baseball player in the film Mr. 3000. In the 2003 National League Championship Series, Mac sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” at Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs leading the Florida Marlins in the series 3-2 and in Game 6 by a 3-0 score. Instead of saying “root, root, root for the Cubbies” Mac said, “root, root, root for the champions!” The Cubs went on to lose the game and the series, with some fans claiming that Mac helped to jinx the Cubs. Mac later admitted that he had hated the North Side’s Cubs his whole life, being a die-hard fan of the South Side’s White Sox, and was seen during the White Sox’ 2005 World Series victory at U.S. Cellular Field.

Mac was number 72 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 greatest standups of all time. 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.”[7]

Personal life

Mac married Rhonda McCullough in 1977. They had one daughter, Je’Niece (born 1978), who attended Xavier University of Louisiana, where she received both her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. She is married with one daughter, Jasmine.


Mac suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body’s organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005.[1]

On July 24, 2008, Mac was hospitalized with an infection, that was later identified as pneumonia. The news of his hospitalization would not be announced for over a week, when his publicist claimed that Mac had pneumonia. The next day, responding to rumors that the actor was in “very, very critical condition,” his publicist said that he was responding well to treatment, and should be released soon.[8] On August 9, his publicist announced that Mac had died from complications of pneumonia unrelated to sarcoidosis.[1]

The 2008 Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago, on the day he died, was dedicated to his memory.[9]

Mac’s funeral was held on August 16 at the House of Hope megachurch. More than 6,000 people attended his funeral.[10]

At the time of his death, Bernie Mac had finished working on the film Soul Men with Isaac Hayes, who, coincidentally, died the next day.[11]

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2 Comments + Add Comment

  • BERNIE MAC!!! we miss you, dude. The king!!! Rest in peace. Much love.

  • R.I.P. King of Comedy Bernie Mac!!!!!!! Out of all the comedians in the world, Bernie Mac just had to die.
    Miss u Bernie!