The world lost a comedy giant today. Bernie Mac, comedian, actor, author, from my hometown Chicago, passed away.
What he meant to me.
In summer of 1994, six months into my career as a comedian, I performed on the same stage as Bernie. He hosted a very special room called Milt Trenier's, a small jazz club located in the basement of the Hyatt on east Ohio street in downtown Chicago. Every tuesday the show started at 8pm. The place was packed by 5. If you weren't there early you could just come the next week. So people would order wings from the restaurant upstairs and get their drink on and the room was always buzzing. The show would start with Bernie's band heating the joint up, they were amazing. Bernie would be introduced and light up the crowd for probably 40 minutes and he always showcased up and coming Chicago (and other but mostly Chicago) talent by having 2 singers and 2 comedians do their thing. He would do sketches, sing, and he had back up dancers, and pleeeeeeeeeeaze do not heckle, you would be incinerated.
I got the opportunity to perform at the coveted show by playing a tape of my set to Ali Leroy, who has made you laugh whether you know him or not as he has written for Bernie and Chris Rock. Ali listened and booked me on the spot for a tuesday 2 weeks away. On the night of the show I was crazy nervous, still cool, but scared. Bernie introduced me, he kind of interviewed me on the spot and clowned me at the same time. It was awesome, he was helping me to relax and rocking the crowd at the same time. I sat down behind my keyboard, and started into my act. Bernie took a seat close by, it was as if he was holding my hand. I hit my set and it certainly could not have gone any better. I got off stage and Bernie said to me on the mic, "Craig if you ever need help with anything, you let me know." Six months into my career as a comedian, Bernie Mac showed me mad love. That is one of the best highlights of my career. Bernie had that ability to be funny and have heart. We would all see that when his show on Fox (Bernie Mac) came on the air. I had the pleasure of being a guest star in an episode (Hair Jordan). He was always lookin out for you. Bernie invited everyone to his dressing room for a soul food lunch. I congratulated him on his success and all he said was "I got a long way to go."
Rest in peace brother.