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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bernie Mac

I'm not a star, and I don't want to be a star. Stars fall. I'm an ordinary guy with an extraordinary job. - Bernie Mac

I was at a sneak peak of Star Wars today, handing out passes to festival members when a friend said he just got a text saying Bernie Mac is dead.

In the world of text messaging, news traveling this way has become common place. Someone gets the word first, then a few minutes later someone else will get the same text from yet another source. You don't quite believe the news and instantly you're browsing on your phone, hoping, that you'll find out it's a rumor with no basis in fact. Unfortunately, by now, you should know that it's rare for news like that to be fake. Too many people receiving separate texts from different people for it to be not true.

About 10 minutes after my friends text, Paula texted me, and then I knew that he was really gone.

While not quite the comedic rock star like Chris Rock or Eddie Murphy, Bernie Mac was a trailblazer in his own way. He's among a super-exclusive group of Black journeymen comedians who found a level of career success that didn't require them to achieve rock star status. And by his own admission, he liked it that way.

Back during the Original Kings of Comedy tour, my boy's date dropped out at the last minute and he invited me to use the other ticket. By far, Bernie Mac was the best of the four. DL Hughley was still using his you need Jesus routine that I'd seen a thousand times. Steve Harvey, who was bombing badly, only got into a rhythm when he started making fun of a heckler. And Cedric the Entertainer was good, but he wasn't memorable. Only Bernie Mac was the one we were quoting endlessly for weeks.

There was a truth to his humor that we could identify with. For me personally, when Bernie spoke about his sister going to rehab and his sister's kids, I instantly thought of my, by then, deceased aunt.

A schemer, she somehow convinced Blockbuster, not once, not twice, but four different times that her car had been broken into. In her closet were enough tapes to open her own video store.

My grandmother was once asked to play a part in a movie. When the production called, the hotel's number came up. Afraid that my aunt(s) had again gotten into some serious trouble and had torn up a hotel room, my grandmother avoided picking up the phone. Only later did she realize it was the movie folks calling.

When I was 13, me and my sister were down in Miami for Summer vacation and I had saved up a $100 to spend while I was down there. Somehow, the $80 I had left over after the first week, disappeared from my wallet. My aunt denied taking it, but I somehow doubt my grandmother had turned klepto.

As exasperating as my aunt was, we couldn't help but start laughing when we started talking about one of her adventures. We could entertain ourselves for hours.

When my aunt died, her husband drove up to the church. As soon as he opened the car door, Master P's I Miss My Homies came blasting out. It was an absurd scene. As sad as that day was, half my family had to literally bite their lips to hide their smiles. Even her funeral was going to generate another story. The type of story I could see Bernie telling himself.

Bernie was the flip side of Bill Cosby, with a heavy dose of Richard Pryor. He told stories about his family and life that were cathartic. Stories that allowed folks to look at the dysfunction in their own families and laugh at the good, the bad, the ugly, the true.

Warning, there's some serious language in this clip.

1 comment:

Paula said...

That was a great clip.

Thanks for the thoughtful blog, Chaz! I really liked Bernie Mac and while most of the time, the overall impact of someone's death isn't usually felt, I think his will be. He set a standard and asked others to do the same, even while recognizing their own limitations and personal evils and charging forward anyway.