When four-year-old Bernard McCullough witnessed his crying mother wiping away her tears and laughing at Bill Cosby, he realized his life’s purpose; he would become a comedian. The boy told his mother,‘Mama I’m gonna be a comedian, so maybe you never have to cry again.’
Bernard McCullough became the hilarious Bernie Mac, a Chicago native who held a range of jobs including basketball coach and WonderBread delivery truck driver, before he conquered Hollywood. Mac’s dream became a reality in 1990, when he won the Miller Lite Comedy Search, and later Russell Simmons gave him a shot at “Def Comedy Jam.”
Throughout his career, Bernie Mac delivered memorable performances in cult hits (Friday), big box office winners (Ocean’s 11), and his own sitcom, (“The Bernie Mac Show”), alike.
Bernie Mac succumbed to sarcoidosis in August of 2008, but the King of Comedy lives, through his family and fans.
Je’ Niece N. McCullough is the Vice President/Director of The Bernie Mac Foundation, and she is also Bernie Mac’s daughter. Founded in 2007, the Foundation is a think tank and fundraiser “dedicated to a more thorough understanding of the disease and its impact on patients’ lives.”
Rolling out spoke with McCullough at the recent Night of 100 Stars Gala, held in Chicago’s DuSable Museum.
How is the Bernie Mac Foundation doing?
We’re doing good, we’ve been taking baby steps. Last year was our first fully functional year.
How do you want fans to remember your dad?
I want them to remember him as the true King of Comedy that he was. That down-home, never met a stranger [man]. He had that uncanny ability to make people feel like they knew him, from the moment he stepped on the stage, to the moment he stepped on the screen. You felt like he was somebody in your family, you felt like he was a guy that you could approach, and say, “Hey Bernie,” and he’d sit down and talk to you.
And that’s what I want people to remember.
What are you working on now?
We actually have a concert on Thursday, what we call our Jazz and Soul Session series, this will be our last one until fall. It will be with saxophonist Eric Darius at Close-Up 2, at 416 S. Clark Street. We also have a speaking tour that we do, I go to different schools … just telling my story, Growing up Mac from the hood to Hollywood. We also have Bernie Mac Day with the White Sox coming up in June. We’ve been busy and we’re trying to keep it going.
–Photo by Bernard Williams.