Comedian and actor Bernie Mac has died of complications from pneumonia. Mac had been hospitalized in Chicago for more than a week with the disease, and had recently been listed as stable; as early as yesterday a spokesperson issued a statement saying Mac was expected to make a full recovery. Mac also suffered from sarcoidosis, an autoimmune lung disease that had been in remission since 2005. He was 50 years old.
Bernie Mac got his first real breakthrough after appearing on Def Comedy Jam, which led to the short-lived HBO talk show Midnight Mac, as well as gigs opening for Redd Foxx, Natalie Cole, and Dionne Warwick. Later he would be cemented as one of the "Kings Of Comedy" (along with Steve Harvey, Cedric The Entertainer, and D.L. Hughley) on the smash hit tour of the same, which was then turned into a successful film by Spike Lee. Mac's movie career really got rolling with a memorable appearance in Friday, followed by supporting parts in comedies like Booty Call and What's The Worst That Could Happen? In 2001, Fox gave Mac his own self-titled sitcom The Bernie Mac Show--this after he had issued a tongue-in-cheek challenge to Hollywood--that was loosely based on his own life; though it was considered popular, the show was canceled after the 2006 season. By then, Mac had made the crossover to big, blockbuster films, joining up with the Ocean's Eleven franchise, replacing Bill Murray as "Bosley" in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, turning in a memorable supporting role in Bad Santa (as Gene "The Store Dick"), and even making a brief appearance in Transformers. His final films Soul Men, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, and Old Dogs will all be released over the course of the next year.
Most recently, Mac caused a stir at a Chicago fundraiser for Barack Obama, where some of his more off-color jokes caused Obama himself to joke that he should "clean up his act." Mac's brash refusal to kowtow to audiences was a signature part of his act; one of his signature catchphrases was "I ain't scared of you," later adopted as the title of his 2001 autobiography. In 2007, Mac had told David Letterman that he was planning to retire from stand-up as soon as he finished shooting the tour documentary The Whole Truth, Nothing But The Truth, So Help Me Mac. That film is still slated for release sometime in 2008.
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