Bernie Mac born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on October 5, 1957 was an American stand-up comedian, actor and voice artist. He was the second child of Mary McCullough and Jeffery Harrison.
He attended the Chicago Vocational High School, married Rhonda Gore on September 17, 1977 and had daughter, Ja’Niece Childress (née McCollough). Prior to fame, he worked various jobs as a janitor, coach, professional mover, cook, bus driver, Sears delivery man, furniture mover and UPS agent.
The Chicago native joined comedians Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and D.L. Hughley Mac in the Original Kings of Comedy. He briefly hosted the HBO show ‘Midnight Mac’ and had a good number of film roles. He earned two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
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The insanely popular Def Comedy Jam TV show brought him to national attention.
Birthed by Russell Simmons and Stan Lathan, the Def Comedy Jam, the HBO stand-up comedy showcase ran from 1992 until 1997, making a brief return in 2006.
Despite Black stand-up comedians making a name at comedy dens, mainstream TV shut its doors to them till the highly efficient pair of Russell and Stan came up with the show anchored by Martin Lawrence who described the show as the “Hottest Comedy Jam in History.”
The show quickly made stars out of Dave Chappelle, Bill Bellamy, Damon Wayans, Jamie Foxx, Mike Epps, Chris Tucker and Bernie Mac. Many of whom went on to have successful careers in film, comedy or advertising.
For fellow comic Chris Rock, Bernie Mac was the Satchel Paige of comedy. Just two years after making a feature on the show, Bernie became a mega star. Little wonder then when the story of Def Comedy Jam is told, three names stand out namely: Adele Givens, Martin Lawrence and Bernie Mac.
Bernie Mac came to the big comedy party late when he won the ‘Miller Lite Comedy Search’ aged 32. He was fearless, creative and gritty.
When show host Martin Lawrence was unable to calm an increasingly hostile crowd, it was Mac who went on stage and famously said, “I ain’t scared o’ you mothafuckas”, telling the audience that he “didn’t come here for no foolishness” cementing his reputation with fans and colleagues.
His character on The Bernie Mac Show was ranked #47 in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time”. Mac was number 72 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 greatest standups of all time.
Mac publicly disclosed that he had suffered from sarcoidosis, causing inflammation of his lungs. The years of smoking were taking a toll and despite giving up on the act later, the harm had been done.
On August 9, 2008 aged 50 Mac died. At his funeral held a week after his death at the House of Hope Church nearly 7,000 people in attendance to mourn the fallen star. Chris Rock, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Samuel L. Jackson, Ashton Kutcher, Don Cheadle, the cast members from his eponymous series and comic giants D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Steve Harvey were all in session.
At the 25th anniversary of Def Jam, Harvey aided by Cedric the Entertainer and D.L. Hughley submitted “Bernie was our king. Bernie Mac was our favourite. Bernie Mac meant to us.”
Recalling Bernie’s time on the Def Jam, Harvey continued: “He was among us the one we all used to watch. We were all stand-ups but we were in love with Mac. He was the greatest of all the kings” – a fitting tribute to a uniquely gifted man.