Bernard Jeffrey McCullough was born on October 8, 1958, in Chicago, Illinois. His family was large and they all lived together under one roof in one of the rougher areas of the city. His youth and its hardships became endless fodder for his comedy, which is fresh and brash and unlike any other. As a youth, he worked in the Regal Theater and performed in the local parks. In 1977, at the age of 19, he became a professional comedian. He was so broke that for his first gig at the Cotton Club in Chicago he had to borrow a suit from his brother. He balked at changing his image for television and films, and because of this, commendable as it may be, he was not well known for most of the 1980s. In 1992, he made his film debut with a small part in “Mo’ Money.” Other small parts in movies, mostly comedies, followed, including “Who’s That Man?” (1993) and “The Walking Dead” (1995).
The year 1995 marked a turning point in his career, particularly after he did an HBO Special called “Midnight Mac.” He became very popular and developed a cult following. In 1996, he starred in the Spike Lee film, “Get The Bus,” and also “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood.” He also appeared on television. Over the next few years, the parts came more and more frequently, but the one that gleaned him the highest profile was the film, “Life” (1999), in which he played opposite Eddie Murphy.
The new century made Bernie Mac a household name. Perhaps his biggest success at least to date has been the “Bernie Mac Show,” which debuted in 2001 and was an instant success. His refusal to change his image for Hollywood has earned him respect among his peers. Of his stardom, he said in a Playboy interview in 2004, “I am not a star and I don’t want to be a star. I’m an ordinary guy with an extraordinary job.”
Well, I don’t know about that, Bernie, but here’s to you and your talent. May you be an example of the power of the individual for many years to come!
“Bill Cosby: Star Bright and Burning Still”