On the 9th of August 2008, Bernie Mac (Bernard Jeffrey McCullough) passed away due to complications from pneumonia. Mac was well known for his stand-up comedy, especially as part of The Original Kings of Comedy routines (the other ‘kings’ were Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and D.L Hughley). Bernie Mac’s own successful The Bernie Mac show ran in the US from 2001 to 2006 and earned him two Emmy Award nominations.
His film credits include Friday (1995), Life (1999), Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003), Guess Who? (2005), Transformers (2007) and Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa (2007).
Two Bernie Mac roles that stick out in my mind are as Officer Self Hatred in Don’t be a Menace to South Central While Drinking your Juice in the Hood (1996) and as Mr 3000 (2004). As Officer Self Hatred, Mac spoofs the famous scene from Boyz n the Hood where Cuba Gooding Jnr’s character gets pulled over and interrogated by racist cops (one of them black). Mac’s small role as the black-hating black cop was outstandingly hilarious, exaggerating an already absurd situation. In Mr 3000, Mac plays a pro-baseball player, who respects nothing but his talent. He quits his team when he gets his 3000 runs despite the fact that his team needs him for the final games of the league. Mr 3000 cares only for himself and his legacy (evidenced by a wall honouring himself in his restaurant). That is until his legacy is contested (they discover he hasn’t quite made 3000 runs in order to get into the baseball hall of fame) and he has to return to his old team – no love lost on their side either – and finally learns what it is to be a team player, even at the risk of his historical runs. This could have been yet another corny, soppy baseball movie about ‘doing the right thing’ and has a largely predictable storyline, but Mac’s subtle acting skills create a likeable yet arrogant ‘hero’ in need of some life lessons, which we are prepared to sit through.
I was really disappointed that South African TV largely ignored this great comic actor when he passed away. He only made TV scrawl. I guess a 50 year old black comedian, married (to Rhonda McCullogh) for 31 years, winner of the Humanitas Prize for television writing that promotes human dignity, and various television awards for his comedy performances and writing is hardly worth airtime (we do however have time for Heath Ledger’s or Anna Nicole Smith’s drug overdose or whatever it is that Ms Hilton is thinking or saying). Well Bernie, I noticed and I am sure many of your fans did as well. Even just hearing your voice on Madagascar 2 made us miss you. Say ‘hi’ to Isaac and Luther for us, won’t you?