Now, REELZ will take viewers into the life of the funny man (real name Bernard McCullough) from his beloved comedy performances to emotional accounts of his final moments from those closest to him in the new tearful documentary Bernie Mac: In My Own Words.
Bernie broke out in 1992 for his HBO Def Comedy Jam and remained in the spotlight, working on hit films including Kings of Comedy, Oceans Eleven and his own TV show, The Bernie Mac Show, where he portrayed a fictional version of himself.
Born into a life of poverty on the Southside of Chicago, the comedian, actor, and voice-over performer was inspired at a young age by comedy recordings of Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. His determination to become a comic and help others overcome similar struggles and tragedies as he faced when he was a youngster- including the loss of his mother, who died of cancer, and brother before he was a teen- inspired him to push for greatness.
His untimely death in 2008 came as a complete blow to his family who sat down in the documentary to recount their final moments with the star.
“It was around 2 a.m. and I remember the door opening and I saw the doctor standing there,” said Bernie's widow, Rhonda McCullough - the two were high school sweethearts and had been married since 1977.
“When I went into the room, he was laying there so peacefully. I think that kind of dried up my tears because he looked so beautiful and that gave me a little reassurance that he’s found his peace,” Rhonda continued, “All I could think of was, I’ve been with him since I was 16. What am I going to do now?”
“And I remember my Mom saying, ‘He’s gone,” and the doctor just kind of nodded her head and I screamed,” Bernie's daughter, Je'Niece McCullough explained. “For the longest time, I hated that day. I hated August 9, I hated it.”
The 50-year-old comic was being treated in a Chicago hospital for sarcoidosis, a rare disease that attacks the lungs when he went into cardiac arrest. He publicly disclosed his illness three years before he died on August 9, 2008.
Prior to the comic and actor’s breakout success, he worked as a janitor, coach, cook, bus driver, and did other odd jobs while doing comedy on the weekends at clubs and parties trying to make it big. After performing for years at open mic nights, Bernie broke out by winning the Miller Lite Comedy Contest, at age 32, hosted by the Wayans Brothers.
From there, he went on to perform around the country and ultimately gained national fame and success. His fearlessness and inability to be anyone other than himself was what fermented his position in the comedy world.
There is much more to find out in Bernie Mac: In My Own Words, Sunday, September 6th at 8 ET / PT on REELZ.
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