Bernie started out as a poor kid from Chicago's South Side. As a child, he performed his own variety show for the neighborhood kids before taking his trip "above the road," cracking jokes for tips on Chicago's elevated train, the El. After years of working day jobs, Bernie decided to get serious about comedy. By 34, making people laugh was his full-time career.
In 1998, Bernie joined comedians Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and D.L. Hughley to form the Kings of Comedy, the most successful comedy tour in history.
"I'm a clown. I never really wanted to be a star. Stars fall. I like to make people laugh because I don't like to see people sad," Bernie told Oprah during his first Oprah Show appearance in 2002. "[I am] a man who is not the same man on stage, although he's a part of me. He and I [are different]. Bernie Mac is relentless, he's no holds barred. I'm more reserved than he. I'm more laid-back. Bernie Mac is wild."
Bernie also had a successful acting career, appearing in films like Ocean's Eleven, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, and Guess Who? He also headlined the sitcom The Bernie Mac Show.
On July 24, 2008, Bernie passed away from complications from pneumonia.
After his death, his Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa co-stars Chris Rock and Ben Stiller appeared on The Oprah Show and paid tribute to the funnyman. Wherever they were, Chris said Bernie lit up the room. "It's like if you're in a room with Bernie Mac, he's funniest guy," Chris said. "Let's not waste our time trying to get a laugh."