Bernie Mac and Jeremy Suarez in "Bernie Mac" on FOX.
Jeremy Suarez (left) and Bernie Mac during an episode of the sitcom "The Bernie Mac Show"  (Photo: Fox)
Saying Goodbye To Uncle Bernie
By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel
August 11, 2008

As with Tim Russert back in mid-June, the shock was no less to my system upon finding out that on Saturday morning actor-comedian Bernie Mac passed away, at the tender age of 50.  Mr. Mac died at Northwestern Hospital in his hometown of Chicago.  He was born on the South Side of the Windy City and rose from an impoverished background to become a huge success in both stand-up and on television and film.  Mr. Mac was a comedic champ.  Sometimes with his comedy he hit below the belt as Senator Obama hinted at in a discreet manner last month, but most times, as on his television show he was an everyday uncle and family man who could always be counted on for lots of laughs, insights and philosophies.

"America," he would almost always begin each sentence when addressing the camera on his television sitcom series "The Bernie Mac Show", which can still be seen on some basic cable networks in re-runs across the country.  It was the start of those sentences that promised something funny to end them.  Mr. Mac, for all his gruffness on the comedic circuit was also a teddy bear of an uncle on his TV show.  He and his onscreen wife had to take care of two children left in Mr. Mac's charge by his fictional sister.  Bernie Mac had to work overtime to stop the frequent mischief and in-fighting in the Mac television household, and was it ever fun.

Mr. Mac didn't just make people laugh the world over; he offered serious skills and talents as an actor, most notably in such films as last year's "Pride", in which he played a hardened high school caretaker in a true story about a high school all-black swimming team in one of Philadelphia's toughest neighborhoods in the 1970's who succeeded against all the odds.  The performance by Mr. Mac was one of his best and most layered.  He could also be seen last year on the big screen in a cameo in "Transformers", 2007's biggest hit as well as one of the many schemers in "Ocean's Thirteen".  Mr. Mac's resume on the big screen included the previous two "Ocean's" films, "Guess Who" (2005), "Bad Santa" (2003), "Head Of State" (2003) and "The Players Club" (1998) among others.  Mr. Mac was also onstage as himself in Spike Lee's concert film "The Original Kings Of Comedy" (2000).  He has three films that he had finished which will be coming to theaters near you in the next few months: "Soul Men", with Samuel L. Jackson, "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (both by year's end) and "Old Dogs" with Robin Williams, a film to be released in 2009.

Bernie Mac was a lively presence.  He had his more subdued side.  He could look you in the eye with a straight face and wasn't afraid to say what he felt on a variety of social issues, most notably race, and fatherhood.  In short, Mr. Mac made us laugh and think.  He had a lot more left in the tank, and although his bout with something called sarcoidosis and the more commonly known ailment of pneumonia may have cost him his life, it is clear that Bernie Mac, who is survived by his wife and daughter, made a huge impact on us all, albeit sadly in such a short time.

He will be sorely missed. 

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