On this day in comedy on August 9, 2008 Comedian and Actor, Bernie Mac (Bernard McCullough) died in Chicago, Illinois from complications of pneumonia.
Bernie Mac was one of the most beloved comedians of his generation. Born on the South Side of Chicago on October 5, 1957, his journey to inevitable stardom took longer than most. Prior to becoming a comedian, he worked odd jobs: moving furniture and being an agent for UPS. Influenced by The Three Stooges, Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor, Mac began his own career at Chicago’s Cotton Club. Following a win of the Miller Lite Comedy Competition and a bold, gutsy performance on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam where he told a hostile audience, “I ain’t scared of you muthaf**kas”, Mac became da man with fans and colleagues alike.
From there the phone rang. He opened for Redd Foxx, Dionne Warwick and Natalie Cole. He was featured in small roles in sometimes equally small films (as well as classics such as Friday), but stole every scene he was in until it was undeniable his talent deserved greater recognition. HBO gave him the show Midnight Mac. He was featured in the star-studded Ocean’s Eleven and starred in Mr. 3000. After the Original Kings of Comedy Tour (he shared the stage with Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and D. L. Hughley) where he proclaimed that TV was too scared to have a Bernie Mac show he got The Bernie Mac Show on Fox.
It seemed nothing could slow down Mac’s ascent. Enter sarcoidosis. The debilitating disease which attacked his lungs and other vital organs left him in remission in 2005. It was just enough time for him to finish Soul Men (with Samuel L. Jackson), Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Old Dogs (with John Travolta and Robin Williams). All were released after his death in 2008.
Mac was number 72 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 greatest standups of all time. One year before passing he spoke of retirement from stand up to concentrate on producing and films. Bernie Mac felt he’d missed too much in life and wanted to spend more time with family and friends. We know how he felt. We’re missing much in our lives with the absence of Bernie Mac.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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