Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Young comedy co-stars recall Mac as class act

Bernie Mac died about three months ago, but this is the week his passing likely really will hit home for his fans everywhere.

That’s because, starting Friday, big bad Bernie takes his final bows on screen -- opposite good pal Samuel L. Jackson in the occasionally hilarious “Soul Men,” and as the voice of a lion named Zooba in “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.”

Certainly the tributes from friends and even acquaintances that Mac, 50, left behind Aug 9 (when he died of pneumonia brought on by complications from a respiratory disease), have filled several huge volumes.

Two more, though, coming from young actors who offer funny support to one of their idols in “Soul Men,” seem especially touching.

“I saw Bernie once more after doing (the movie), and he gave me some great advice,” explained Adam Herschman, the bushy-haired comedian perhaps best known as the Sprint Guy in those omnipresent Alltel commercials.

“I was going to an audition and he just told me to be myself and don’t worry about it. That was Bernie Mac. He would always just be himself, and that was always enough. That’s also what was so cool about him. He was just a beautiful man.”

Affion Crockett, who plays a befuddled hip-hopper named Lester in “Soul Men,” also claimed that Mac was quick with comic counseling.

“Bernie was an open book about comedy, willing to share and giving me that special advice when I needed it,” Crockett recalled. “He even passed me jokes he thought my character could use, and they were always on the mark.

“The other thing that I remember about him was how he told us that he performed at funerals because he never wanted anyone to be sad so, when he passed away, I tried to take a page from his book by celebrating him.”

With that, Crockett, whose standup act specializes in impressions, launched into a loud word/sound-perfect mimic of Mac introducing one of the special guests he apparently regularly brought to the movie set:

‘Hey, everybody! This is my granddaughter! I love her to death and you gotta get to know her! She’s the future!’

“He’d give it all to us in that booming voice,” Crockett added, suddenly speaking very softly. “He was always the family man. His granddaughter is only 2 or 3, but he introduced her to everyone with the classic Bernie.”

Look for more memories of Mac and my review of “Soul Men” in Thursday’s Sun News, where you’ll also find my review of writer/director Mike Leigh’s memorable “Happy-Go-Lucky.”

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