You don’t need me to tell you that it has been a rough year in the world of celebrity deaths. The world of comedy seems to have been hit especially hard, first with the loss of George Carlin in late June, and now with the very untimely death of Bernie Mac, age 50, just this morning. Mac was admitted to the hospital on August 1 to be treated for pneumonia brought on by sarcoidosis, an immune system disorder that he was diagnosed with in 1983. This morning, The Chicago Sun-Times reported that he has passed away.
Bernard “Bernie Mac” McCullough was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, where he began his career as a stand-up comedian. He found fame in his 30s when he joined HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, ultimately going on to host a short-lived talk show on HBO titled Midnight Mac. From there, he went on to a number of smaller, but memorable roles in films such as Ice Cube’s 1995 film Friday, How to Be a Player, Ocean’s Eleven, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Bad Santa, Guess Who? and Transformers. His outward and charismatic nature constantly allowed him to be a comedic scene-stealer, always memorable even in the smallest roles.
It was in stand-up comedy though, that Mac found the most fame. In 2000, he toured the country as one of The Original Kings of Comedy with Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and D.L. Hughley. The act was later filmed and turned into a very popular feature by director Spike Lee.
As well, Mac earned a shot at his own sitcom in 2001 on the Fox network called “The Bernie Mac Show.” The show, which was somewhat based on his own life, followed him as a father figure taking custody of his sister’s three children after she was admitted to rehab. It was a real-life situation that he described so eloquently in one of his more popular stand-up routines from The Original Kings of Comedy, seen below:
For me, Bernie Mac will be remembered not only as a hilarious comedian, but also as a stand-up father and family man. He and his wife had been married since 1977, raising one daughter, Je’Neice as well as helping raise the three children of his sister for a period of six years. As his Ocean’s Eleven co-star Carl Reiner described in a statement today, Mac was a man who lived with a great deal of love for his family:
His conversations were always different that any conversations I had with anyone else. They were very family oriented; he talked about his wife and children with such love and it’s very hard to believe that he’s not with us anymore.
Mac was truly a role-model for anyone in the entertainment business, not only an uncompromising comedian and actor, but a genuinely good guy behind the scenes. And for those who will remember Mac through only his public persona as a comedian, they will always remember him as a man who told thing like they were:
Out thoughts and prayers go out to the Mac family. He will be missed.