Photo credits: Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press |ImagesOnline.com
Bernie Mac was very young – only 50 years of age – when he died 12 years ago. Today, we still miss his great gift of comedy.
Born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on October 5, 1957, in the Englewood area of Chicago, Illinois’ south side, Mac held jobs at General Motors and Wonder Bread before tiring of the daily grind. After experiencing regular job burnout, he followed his dream of pursuing a career in comedy.
His first big break came at an open mike night at Chicago’s Cotton Club. Within a few years, he had won a city-wide comedy talent search and was on his way to nationwide fame via HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam.” His standup success brought him movie roles and his very own TV show, putting him in the homes of millions of viewers who loved laughing with him.
Mac earned two Emmy nominations (2002 and 2003) for his portrayal of a high-strung comedian looking after his drug-addicted sister’s three children on the television series The Bernie Mac Show (2001–06).
He also achieved box-office success with roles in such films as Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and its two sequels and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003). Mac’s career ignited after he won the national comedy search in 1990. He hosted the HBO late-night comedy-variety show Midnight Mac before joining (1996) the cast of the TV sitcom Moesha.
He later starred on the 1999–2000 “Kings of Comedy” concert tour, which was filmed by director Spike Lee and released in 2000 as the documentary The Original Kings of Comedy. Mac’s other film credits include Bad Santa (2003), Guess Who (2005), and Pride (2007).
The Bernie Mac movies released directly after his death proved that there was more great stuff in store from the comedian. Three of his funniest movies were released posthumously – “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” “Old Dogs,” and “Soul Men.” In the latter, Mac got to prove that he was more than just a funny guy – he could sing, too.
We should have had so many more chances to enjoy Bernie Mac’s work – but sincerely thank him for leaving us laughing as we loved life.
Sources: “We Still Miss Bernie Mac” by Legacy.com and The Encyclopedia-Britannica (Britannica.com)
*BlackThen.com writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.