Bernard Jeffrey McCollough was born in 1957 in Chicago, the son of Mary McCullough and Jeffery Harrison. He grew up in the city, in a rougher neighborhood than most others, with a large family living under one roof. This situation provided him with a great insight into his comedy, as his family, and the situations surrounding them would be what dominated his comedy. Mac worked in the Regal Theater, and performed in Chicago parks in his younger days. He became a professional comedian in 1977, at the age of 19. He refused to change his image for television and films, and therefore was not very well known for most of the eighties. In 1992 he made his film debut with a small part with Mo’ Money (1992). This started a plethora of small parts in a string of movies, mostly comedies, including Who’s the Man? (1993), House Party 3 (1994) and The Walking Dead (1995). 1995 proved to be a turning point in his career. He did an HBO Special called Midnight Mac (1995), and took a part as Pastor Clever in the Chris Tucker comedy Friday (1995). Bernie Mac developed a cult following due to the film. In 1996. he starred in the memorable Spike Lee movie Get on the Bus (1996), and was very funny in Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996). About this time he had a recurring role in the TV series Moesha (1996). Bernie Mac’s star was slowly rising from this point. His next couple of movie parts were more substantial, including How to Be a Player (1997) and The Players Club (1998). In 1999 Bernie Mac got his most high profile part up to that point in the film Life (1999) starring Eddie Murphy.
The new century started a new era for the brash Chicago comedian. He was a featured comedian in The Original Kings of Comedy (2000). This performance made him more of a household name, and led to many more major parts. In 2001 he played Martin Lawrence’s uncle in What’s the Worst That Could Happen? (2001) and later that year, was in the star studded remake of Ocean’s Eleven (2001). However his biggest success was The Bernie Mac Show (2001), which debuted in 2001 to instant acclaim. However, soon after the series ended, Mac’s health took a turn for the worse. He developed sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease which causes inflammation in the lungs. On August 9, 2008, after weeks of unsuccessful treatments, Bernie Mac died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was 50.
Bernie Mac was a comedian who refused to change his image for Hollywood and said that his life in Chicago was who he was, and there was nothing that could change that. He was a mature comedian who was very intelligent and engaging in his television, film and stand-up appearances.
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