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Bernie Mac
Mac on the set of Soul Men in Memphis, Tennessee in March 2008, five months before his death.
Birth name Bernard Jeffrey McCullough
Born (1957-10-05)October 5, 1957
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died August 9, 2008(2008-08-09) (aged 50)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Resting place
Medium Film, stand-up comedy, television
Education Chicago Vocational High School
Years active 1977–2008
Genres Observational comedy
Rhonda McCullough
(m. 1977)
Children 1
Notable works and roles
  • Bernie McCullough – The Bernie Mac Show
  • Floyd Henderson – Soul Men
  • Gin Slagel – Bad Santa
  • Frank Catton – Ocean's Trilogy

Bernard Jeffrey McCullough (October 5, 1957 – August 9, 2008), better known by his stage name Bernie Mac, was an American comedian and actor. Born and raised on Chicago's South Side, Mac gained popularity as a stand-up comedian. He joined fellow comedians Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, and D. L. Hughley in the film The Original Kings of Comedy.

After briefly hosting the HBO show Midnight Mac, Mac appeared in several films in smaller roles. His most noted film roles were as Frank Catton in the 2001 remake of Ocean's 11 and as the title character of Mr. 3000. He was the star of his eponymous show, which ran from 2001 through 2006, earning him two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

Mac's other films included starring roles in The Players Club, Head of State, Bad Santa, Guess Who, Pride, Soul Men.

Early life and education

Bernard Jeffrey McCullough was born on October 5, 1957, in Chicago, Illinois. Mac was the second child of Mary McCullough and Jeffrey Harrison. Mac was raised by his single mother (who died of cancer when he was sixteen years old) and his grandparents on the city's south side.

Mac began his high school career at Chicago Vocational High School. His mother died in 1973 when he was 16 years old. Shortly afterward, Mac's older brother and his estranged father both died. Mac later graduated from Chicago Vocational High School in 1975.

During his 20s and through his early 30s, Mac worked in a variety of jobs, including janitor, coach, professional mover, cook, bus driver, Wonder Bread delivery man, furniture mover, and UPS agent, while doing comedy on the weekends at clubs and parties.


Rise to success

Bernie Mac's influences were from The Three Stooges and listening to stand-up comedians Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. Mac started as a stand-up comedian in Chicago's Cotton Club. After he won the Miller Lite Comedy Search at the age of 32, his popularity as a comedian began to grow. A performance on HBO's Def Comedy Jam thrust him into the spotlight; after Martin Lawrence was unable to calm an increasingly hostile crowd, Mac went onstage and said, "I ain't scared o' you mothafuckas," telling the audience that he "didn't come here for no foolishness."

Mac opened for Dionne Warwick, Redd Foxx and Natalie Cole. He played a small role in 1994's House Party 3 as Uncle Vester. He also had a short-lived talk show on HBO titled Midnight Mac. Later, Mac also acted in minor roles, playing Mr. Johnson the no-nonsense owner of a grille and diner in the movie B.A.P.S., and "Pastor Clever" in Ice Cube's 1995 vehicle Friday. Following that role, Mac was chosen to play the title role in the 1995 Apollo revival of The Wiz.

Mac had his first starring role as "Dollar Bill", a silly, slick-talking club owner in 1998's The Players Club. Mac was able to break from the traditional "black comedy" genre, having roles in the 2001 remake of Ocean's Eleven and becoming the new Bosley for the Charlie's Angels sequel, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.

The Bernie Mac Show

Bernie Mac at the Transformers premiere in June 2007

In 2001, the Fox network gave Mac his own television sitcom called The Bernie Mac Show portraying a fictional version of himself.

The show contained many parodies of events in Bernie's actual life. Mac, who grew up on Chicago's South Side, was a fan of the Chicago White Sox, and would often sneak a reference to his favorite team in episodes, including enlisting then-White Sox pitcher Jon Garland to make a guest cameo appearance. In the 2005 season he wore a White Sox jacket and cap, and congratulated his hometown Chicago White Sox and their staff members on their recent World Series championship.

The show was not renewed after the 2005–2006 season. The series finale aired on April 14, 2006. Among other awards, the show won an Emmy for "Outstanding Writing", the Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, and the Humanitas Prize for television writing that promotes human dignity. His character on The Bernie Mac Show was ranked No. 47 in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time".

During his run on the show, Mac had co-starring roles in Bad Santa and Head of State, as well as starring roles in the baseball-themed film Mr. 3000, and Guess Who?,a remake of the film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Later years, illness and death

On March 19, 2007, Mac told David Letterman on the CBS Late Show that he would retire from his 30-year career after he finished shooting the comedy film, The Whole Truth, Nothing but the Truth, So Help Me Mac. "I'm going to still do my producing, my films, but I want to enjoy my life a little bit", Mac told Letterman. "I missed a lot of things, you know. I was a street performer for two years. I went into clubs in 1977 and was on the road 47 weeks out of the year."

During this time, Mac was having success as a popular film actor, starting with an appearance in the 2007 film Transformers as the car salesman "Bobby Bolivia", and serving as the voice of Zuba, Alex the Lion's long-lost father in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. He co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson in the 2008 musical comedy Soul Men. These last two movies were released months after his death. His final film role was as Jimmy Lunchbox in the 2009 film Old Dogs which was released a year after his death.

In the final four years of his life, Mac publicly disclosed that he had had sarcoidosis, a disease of unknown origin that causes inflammation in tissue. Sarcoidosis frequently attacked his lungs. On July 19, 2008, Mac was admitted to the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in his hometown of Chicago. After being treated in the ICU for three weeks, Mac went into cardiac arrest and subsequently died during the early morning hours on August 9, from complications of sarcoidosis at the age of 50.

Mac's public memorial was held a week after his death at the House of Hope Church, with nearly 7,000 people in attendance. Notable mourners at Mac's funeral were Chris Rock, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Samuel L. Jackson, Ashton Kutcher, Don Cheadle, the cast members from The Bernie Mac Show, and his Kings of Comedy fellows D. L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Steve Harvey.

Legacy and tributes

The first two of Mac's posthumous films, Soul Men and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, were released three months after his death and were dedicated to him. Mac's third posthumously released and final film, Old Dogs, was released a year after his death. The 2008 Bud Billiken Parade, which was held in Chicago on the day of Mac's death, was also dedicated to his memory. On the day of Mac's funeral, his hometown's local television station WCIU-TV aired an exclusive television special, A Tribute to Bernie Mac, and had interviews with his former colleagues including Camille Winbush, Chris Rock, Joe Torry, Cameron Diaz, Don Cheadle, and some of his family members & close friends.

During Steve Harvey's television show which aired November 14, 2016, Harvey read a proclamation from Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaiming November 14 as "Bernie Mac Day". Steve Harvey's guests included Bernie's wife Rhonda, their daughter Je'Niece, granddaughter Jasmine, and Bernie's The Original Kings of Comedy co-stars D. L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Guy Torry (who was the original host at the beginning of the tour). Mike Epps, appearing via satellite, along with the principal of Bernie and Rhonda's alma mater Chicago Vocational High School (CVS), revealed and unveiled the renaming of CVS Auditorium to the "Bernie Mac Auditorium".

On February 14, 2017, Rolling Stone named Bernie Mac #41 of the 50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time.

Personal life

Mac married his high school sweetheart Rhonda Gore on September 17, 1977, and together they had a daughter, Je'Niece, born in 1978.

In the 2003 National League Championship Series, Mac sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs leading the Florida Marlins in the series 3 games to 2 and in Game 6 by a 2–0 score at the time (it would soon be 3–0 in the bottom of the 7th). Instead of saying "root, root, root for the Cubbies" Mac said, "root, root, root for the champs!, champs!" The Cubs lost the game following the Steve Bartman incident and the series, with some fans claiming that Mac helped jinx the Cubs. Mac later admitted that he had hated the North Side's Cubs his whole life, being a die-hard fan of the South Side's White Sox, and was seen during the White Sox' 2005 World Series victory at U.S. Cellular Field.

Mac had a history of health problems before he went public with his health struggles. The first occurred in the summer of 2004, when Mac was filming both Ocean's Twelve and Guess Who while also promoting Mr. 3000. He was set to film the remainder of Season 4 of The Bernie Mac Show in October of that year, but due to contracting pneumonia in both lungs and suffering from exhaustion, Fox halted production for four weeks so Mac could recover.


Year Title Role Notes
1992 Mo' Money Club doorman Cameo
1993 Who's the Man? G-George
1994 House Party 3 Uncle Vester
1994 Above the Rim Flip
1995 The Walking Dead Ray
Friday Pastor Clever
1996 Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood Officer Self Hatred Cameo
Get on the Bus Jay
1997 Booty Call Judge Peabody
B*A*P*S Mr. Johnson
Def Jam's How to Be a Player Buster
1998 Players Club, TheThe Players Club Dollar Bill
1999 Life Jangle Lang
2000 Original Kings of Comedy, TheThe Original Kings of Comedy Himself Documentary
2001 What's the Worst That Could Happen? Uncle Jack
Ocean's Eleven Frank Catton
2003 Head of State Mitch Gilliam
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle Jimmy Bosley
Bad Santa Gin Slagel
2004 Mr. 3000 Stan Ross
Ocean's Twelve Frank Catton
2005 Guess Who Percy Jones
Inspector Gadget's Biggest Caper Ever Gadgetmobile (voice)
2007 Pride Elston
Ocean's Thirteen Frank Catton
Transformers Bobby Bolivia
2008 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Zuba (voice) Posthumous release
Soul Men Floyd Henderson
2009 Old Dogs Jimmy Lunchbox
Year Title Role Notes
1996–1999; 2000 Moesha Uncle Bernie 9 episodes
1997 The Wayans Bros. Shank 1 episode
1997 Don King: Only in America Bundini Brown Television film
2001–2006 Bernie Mac Show, TheThe Bernie Mac Show Bernie "Mac" McCullough 104 episodes
2003 King of the Hill Mack Voice, 1 episode
2003 Saturday Night Live Himself/Host

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Work
2005 Black Reel Awards Won Best Actor, Musical or Comedy Mr. 3000
2002 Emmy Award Nominated Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show
2003 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show
2003 Golden Globe Award Nominated Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy The Bernie Mac Show
2004 Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy The Bernie Mac Show
2003 Kids Choice Award Nominated Favorite TV Actor The Bernie Mac Show
2004 Favorite TV Actor The Bernie Mac Show
2005 Favorite TV Actor The Bernie Mac Show
2006 Favorite TV Actor The Bernie Mac Show
2002 NAACP Image Awards Nominated Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show
2003 Won Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show
2004 Nominated Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Head of State
Won Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show
2005 Won Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show
2006 Won Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show
2007 Nominated Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show
2003 PRISM Award Won Performance in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show
2003 Satellite Award Won Best Performance by an Actor in a Series, Comedy or Musical The Bernie Mac Show
2004 Won Best Performance by an Actor in a Series, Comedy or Musical The Bernie Mac Show
2005 Nominated Best Performance by an Actor in a Series, Comedy or Musical The Bernie Mac Show
2002 Television Critics Association Award Won Individual Achievement in Comedy The Bernie Mac Show
2005 BET Comedy Awards Won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series The Bernie Mac Show

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bernie Mac para niños

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