Actor and comedian Bernie Mac died Saturday from complications of pneumonia in his native Chicago. He was 50.
Mac, who was hospitalized last week, recently made headlines for making off-color and misogynistic remarks at a $2,300-a-head fundraiser for Barack Obama.
Born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough in Chicago, Mac made his TV debut on BET’s Comic View and HBO’s Def Comedy Jam in 1992 with a crude, southern-style comedy routine that has been described by the New York Times as “part of an ancient, vaudevillian craft.” Others have simply dubbed his style coonery.
Mac found stardom as one of the comics in the 2000 Spike Lee-directed film The Original Kings of Comedy and segued from low-budget black films (Booty Call and How To Be a Player) to A-list fare (the Ocean’s Eleven franchise and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle).
His award-winning Fox sitcom The Bernie Mac Show was based on some of his earlier comedy routines (remember milk and cookies) and was applauded for Mac’s use of stand-up, in which he talks directly to the audience, as a device that broke the traditional “fourth wall” of sitcoms.
In a 2001 review of the show, Variety said, “The dial is littered with doofus dads and the women who adore them, but Mac reinvents the wheel here, using his warped sense of humor, buggy eyes and massive frame to intimidate and discipline some very bratty young’uns.”
While it may be surprising that a crude comedian, who jokingly lauded himself as a pimp, can rise to mainstream status as a TV family dad, no one was more confounded than Mac himself: ”Seven years ago, I was raunchy, I was blue. Now I’m the perfect father. Figure that out.”