R.I.P.: Bernie Mac (October 5, 1957 – August 9, 2008)

March 2, 2007: Actor Isaiah Washington (L) accepts the award for “Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series” for his work in “Grey’s Anatomy” from actor Bernie Mac onstage during the 38th annual NAACP Image Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on March 2, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Tribute to Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac

Monday, August 11, 2008
6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Leimert Park
5th Street Dicks Coffee House
4305 Degnan Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90008
Crenshaw @ 43rd

America…comedian Bernie Mac has died.

I know, when I first heard the news it was a great shock. I really liked Bernie Mac, especially his show “The Bernie Mac Show” which I still watch daily.

Mac died from complications related to pneumonia in a Chicago-area hospital, announced his publicist, Danica Smith.

An actor and comedian who starred in the “Ocean’s Eleven” film franchise and “The Bernie Mac Show,” died Saturday. He was 50.

According to the Los Angeles Times obituary, Mac suffered from sarcoidosis, a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in tissue, most often the lungs. The pneumonia was unrelated to the disease, Smith said.

He was born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on Oct. 5, 1957, in Chicago and raised by his mother and grandparents on Chicago’s South Side.

When he was 5, he learned how powerful comedy could be when he witnessed his mother laugh until she cried while watching Bill Cosby on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Mac recalled in a 2004 Times story.

In his 2004 memoir, “Maybe You Never Cry Again,” Mac wrote about his strict, no-nonsense upbringing and growing up poor.

“I came from a place where there wasn’t a lot of joy,” Mac told the AP in 2001. “I decided to make other people laugh when there wasn’t a lot of things to laugh about.”

His mother died when he was 16, and his brother, father and grandmother died not long after. At 19 he married his high school sweetheart, and he was a father by 20.

The marriage, which endured, grounded him while the losses made him want to focus on comedy, he often said.

In 1977, Mac started doing professional stand-up comedy and was inspired by black comedians who continually pushed the comedy envelope such as Pryor, Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley.

An appearance on the HBO comedy series “Def Comedy Jam” led to scene-stealing roles in several 1990s films, including “Mo’ Money,” “House Party 3” and “The Players Club.”

In 2005, he starred with Ashton Kutcher in “Guess Who,” a comedy remake of the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn-Sidney Poitier drama “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Mac played the father who is shocked that his daughter is marrying a white man.

More recently, he completed filming “Soul Men,” a musical comedy with Samuel L. Jackson scheduled for release this fall, about two estranged soul music singers who reunite decades later.

David T. Friendly, a producer of “Soul Men,” learned of Mac’s death from the film’s director, Malcolm Lee.

“My first thought was that we had lost one of the giants of comedy,” Friendly said. “It’s hard to imagine that a guy with so much talent and so much energy could be taken away at such an early age.”

Increasingly, Mac turned to dramatic roles. He starred in “Pride,” a 2007 drama about the creation of the Philadelphia Department of Recreation’s predominantly African American swim team in 1971.

Last year, he announced that he was retiring from stand-up so that he could enjoy life more. He credited his grandmother with teaching him to keep people guessing.

“She always said, ‘Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.’ . . . I love it when you all walk away and say, ‘I didn’t know he could do that.’ I just laugh because I love being underestimated. I have been underestimated my whole life.’ ”

Mac, who lived in the Chicago area, is survived by his wife, Rhonda McCullough, daughter Je’Niece and a granddaughter.

The Court of Public Opinion

  • Lisa

    I love’d the Berni Mac show,it always seem to make me feel beter,there is nothing better than a good hard laugh after a good hard cry.Mr.Mac will be missed very bad in my family, the only time all of us would get alone is when we sat in the living room to watch his show. my heart goesout to his family. It kind of feel likes one of my own family members is gone.