In recent days, there has been lots of commentary about why we mourn celebrities. In the case of the late, great Bernie Mac, the answer is obvious: he was funny. With his bug-eyed faces and his blunt, sometimes profane delivery, the Mac Man could make you laugh to tears.
That gift is celebrated in the documentary "I Ain't Scared Of You: A Tribute to Bernie Mac" (10 p.m. Sunday, Comedy Central). As you watch, Mac will make you laugh again, and his tribute might make you a little weepy too.
The doc chronicles Bernie McCullough's story from its beginnings as a poor kid in Chicago. Early footage and previously unseen performances reveal that, while he refined his storytelling, Mac's persona was intact from the beginning. We learn the origins of his line "I ain't scared of you" and how Mac moved from stage to screen. There's an evolution, too, in his style, from jeans and colorful shirts to colorful boxy suits to a tailored high-end look.
What's also impressive is the roster of celebs willing to talk about Mac (conducting some of the interviews is the comic's daughter Je'Niece). You'd expect comics like Cedric the Entertainer, Bill Bellamy, D.L. Hughley and Chris Rock. But also attesting to Mac's prowess are Cameron Diaz, Andy Garcia, director Steven Soderbergh, and Carl Reiner, whom Mac apparently saw as a kind of mentor. Mac, of course, worked with all of them and left a vibrant and lasting impressive. Especially enjoyable were the memories shared by Don Cheadle, who played a shady cousin on Mac's Fox show, and Samuel L. Jackson, who starred with Mac in his last film, "Soul Men."
Because it's made by family, the film is a love letter to Mac. I wasn't looking for any dirt, but it would have been interesting to go a bit deeper. For instance, I heard an interview the other day with Mac's widow Rhonda and she revealed the origins of the story that became The Bernie Mac Show -- that they'd taken in his crack-addicted sister's 3 kids. In truth, they'd taken in a niece and her child, and a friend had taken in her daughter's two kids. Mac put those stories together. That story isn't in the documentary. I would have loved to know more about his thoughts on comedy and in what ways his background shaped his comic voice. Where did "Who You Wit," his other saying come from? What about his comic pronounciations? (Tah-niiight). And what about his battle with sarcoidosis, the disease that eventually led to his death.
Still, you'll smile through "I Ain't Scared of You." It was good to see and hear Bernie again like he was, stalking the stage, standing ready to beat your kids.