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.
Bernard Jeffrey McCullough was born in Chicago, Illinois. Mac was raised by his single mother Mary McCullough (who died of cancer when he was sixteen years old) and his grandparents on the city’s west side.
Mac began his high school career at Chicago Vocational High School. During 1973, Mac moved to Tampa, Florida, to attend Jesuit High School following the death of his mother during his sophomore year. Shortly afterward, Mac’s older brother and his estranged father both died. Mac later returned to Chicago and graduated from Chicago Vocational 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, Sears delivery man, furniture mover, and UPS agent, while doing comedy on the weekends at clubs and parties.
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 famously said, “I ain’t scared o’ you moth$#@” 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, Mac played Mr. Johnson the no-nonsense owner of a grille and diner in the movie B.A.P.S., and he got his big break as “Pastor Clever” in Ice Cube’s 1995 film Friday. Following that role, Mac was selectively chosen to play the title role, The Wiz in the 1995 Apollo Revival of The Wiz.
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 Eleven 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 Mo’ Money, Booty Call, Friday, B*A*P*S, Life, The Players Club, Head of State, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Bad Santa, Guess Who, Pride, Soul Men, Transformers, Old Dogs, and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.
In 2001 the Fox network gave Mac his own television sitcom called The Bernie Mac Show portraying a fictional version of himself. 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 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”.