I aint scared of you, p.1
I Ain't Scared of You, page 1
I Ain’t Scared of You
All photos courtesy of the author’s collection unless otherwise noted.
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Copyright © 2001 by Bernie Mac
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Thanks to my wife, Rhonda, and my loving daughter, Je’Niece, who have been my motivation. They are my two best friends in all my life. To my entire family, in-laws, acquaintances past and present, associates, and friends. To my enemies, thank you for your motivation! To “Big Fella” and “AV,” thanks for thirty years of straight-up friendship.
Thanks to Richard Abate at ICM; Armstrong and Hirsch; Simon & Schuster, MTV, and Pocket Books; UTA. To my editor, Tracy Sherrod—great work! Thanks for getting it right, baby girl! To Darrell Dawsey, for taking my words out of context!
Thanks to my main man and manager, Steven Greener, who has done a great job with my career—knowing me, knowing my style, and knowing when to stay the hell out of my business!
To Chuck, my tour manager, who has been “busted” on numerous occasions. To my hair designer, Teressa, who don’t appreciate shit! Just kidding (on the real).
To Haj, my clothes designer, who’s been with me an eternity and who’s one selfish sumbitch; to my main man, the Big Fella, thank you for loving Bernard, not Bernie Mac; and to my booking agent, Jody Wenig, who really knows how to book me “right” and cares about me. Thanks to my good friend and assistant—they come no better than Geri Bleavings. And last but not least, to my fans, who truly made me and not Hollywood. Thank you with all my heart.
From the Mac Man,
Darrell Dawsey would like to acknowledge: God; moms and family; my sweetie, Chastity Pratt, and our newborn son, Khalil Aziz; Cara; Jamil; Natasha; my editor, Tracy Sherrod; Richard Abate; my Manifest dogs; my cousins in Philly; Tom, Kel, Al and the whole team, from Detroit to LA to NY.
Chapter One Hard Times and Humble Beginnings
Chapter Two How People Are
Chapter Three Entertainment
Chapter Four The Career Track
Chapter Five Family
Chapter six In Case I Didn’t Mention
Bernie Mac, age five.
People are always coming up to me, asking me how I got into comedy, what made me want to do this. They think it’s something a muh’fucka just picked up along the way to try and make some money. Unh-unh. Naw. This is something I was born to do, baby. I been doing shows since I was a kid. It didn’t matter where—backyards, apartment hallways, the alley. I been entertaining since I was little.
I’mma tell ya a true story. It started when I was about four. I was at home with my mama, and I noticed that she had started crying. I went, sat on her lap. And you know, as a little boy, when you see you mama crying, you automatically start crying.
I took my mother’s hand, and I was wiping her face. I asked why she was crying. And my mom told me, “Nothing, son. Nothing.” The same instant she told me “nothing,” Ed Sullivan came on. And he said that he had a “really big shew.” And then he introduced Bill Cosby.
At that particular time, there wasn’t nothing but four people on TV—four blacks—that was Diahann Carol, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr. and Bill Cosby. When I saw Bill Cosby, he came on and my mother was looking at him. I’ll never forget: He was doing this bit about sex in the bathroom. And while he was doing his act, I noticed that mother was still crying—but she had also started to laugh. Pretty soon, she was laughing so hard you wouldn’t even have known she had just been crying. And when I saw her laughing, I started laughing. I saw the joy in my mother’s smile. When I looked on television, I saw this man making her laugh—even with all the problems and struggles she was going through at the time.
I saw the power of comedy.
Right then and there, I turned to her and said, “Mama, that’s what I’m going to be. I’m going to be a comedian—so I don’t ever have to see you cry no more.”
That’s a true story, man. That’s what made me want to do this, even after my mother passed. That’s what inspires my humor: I don’t want nobody to cry.
—Bernie Mac, April 3, 2001
I Ain’t Scared of You
Hard Times and Humble Beginnings
I grew up in the streets of 69th and Morgan, the south side of Chicago. Rough as hell. We did all that bullshit—fighting, cuttin’ each other with glass, shootin’. But back when we were coming up, we could joke with each other hard. We killed each other with jokes, all day long. And we didn’t run and get no pistols or nothin’. Learning how to take a joke, learning how to tell one on somebody—that shit made you stronger. People talkin’ about you: “Ya hair nappy”; “You got on floods up to here.”
Lint in ya hair? Shit, you had the teddis.
And it’s always a guy that smells like piss.
“Black ass tar baby,” they used to call me. “Spooky Juice.” I’m sitting up there, they laughing at me and shit. I went home mad, can’t sleep. Next day, I come back: “Motherfucker,” I was talking that shit, too. “Yeah, look at you . . .” You learn how to fight back, man. I didn’t go get no pistol. That’s when I learned to come back. “Look at you!”
Growing up, I laughed at stuff that people couldn’t understand. I’d be laughing at the craziest thing, and people would be lookin’ at me like, What the hell? Something wrong with that muthafucka.
I laughed at people’s misfortune—because I had so many misfortunes. But I didn’t look at them as misfortunes. I learned hard lessons in life; I had to because I had so much happen: My mother died my sophomore year in high school. The next year, same day, my brother dropped dead. Two years after that, I got married because my girlfriend got pregnant. The year after my wedding, my father—who I had only recently met—died.
That was just life to me. So my mentality was, your misfortune wasn’t all that bad because that’s the way I thought about mine. But on the flip side, you were like, “This muthafucka laughing. I’m sitting up here, house burnin’ down, and this muthafucka up here laughing.”
That’s true. One time, there was this fire on our block, and everybody had come running out this house. They was in they draws, hair all messed up, and there go Ms. Lee screamin’, “Aw Lord, our prop’ty, our prop’ty!”
And I’m laughing. Ms. Lee snapped on me: “It ain’t funny! It ain’t funny!” The more she screamed, the harder I laughed. But I wasn’t laughing at the fire. I wasn’t laughing at the fact that their house was burning down. I was laughing at their expressions.
I just kept seeing her face, all frowned up, eyes bugged out, raggedy-ass headrag on, and she just screamin’. One side of her panties was in the crack of her ass. Her old man—he had lost a leg to diabetes—and this peg-leg muh’fucka was just kickin’ at the air. Just kickin’. Talkin’ to firemen, talkin’ ’bout, “Hurry up!”
I just couldn’t hold it. I was falling out.
But like I said, I could laugh at peop
You go to some people houses and the kids got all kinds of cookies and cakes and ice cream and shit. You know, snacks.
But not us. We ain’t never have no good food, man, nothin’ for kids to just munch on. Shit, fuck around and ask my granddaddy ’bout some damn snacks.
KIDS: Daddy, can we have a snack?
GRANDDADDY: Mm-hmm, yeah, you can have a snack. Put you a coupla boiled eggs up in that pot in there.
Seriously, that was a snack at our house. We’d put about three or four eggs in a pot, boil ’em, then my granddaddy would cut ’em up in halves. I’d get a half. My brother would get a half, and so on. Then you’d add salt and pepper and hot sauce.
Maaaaan, you’d be farting all damn night.
Everybody would be in the bed trying to get some rest, my grandmama and granddaddy in the next room, and then all of a sudden—fffrrrrrppppppp.
“Man, why you—why you—why you do it by my face? Ma-maaaaaa! He fartin’ in people’s face!”
“Well, he just did in mine! He did it in mine!”
That’s from eating all them eggs.
And it wasn’t just snacks. You know you poor when you eatin’ breakfast food late. You fryin’ toast? At nine o’clock at night? With bacon?
We’d have to get some baloney and fry it until the black forms a circle around the edges. Don’t even have no bread. Just roll it up like a hot dog and eat it.
And don’t let us really get some ice cream. Booooyyy. When we’d get ice cream, my granddaddy would give us all one scoop each. I’d get mine, stir it up, mash it, make it seem like I had a lot. And you know kids: always examining what the other kids got.
My brother would be lookin’ at mine, and then he’d start complaining to my grandfather—which was the wrong thing to do.
“Granddaddy, he got mo’ than me!”
My granddaddy’d tell him: “Ain’t nobody got mo’! Ain’t nobody got mo’!”
“Yes, he do! Everybody got mo!”
Then my granddaddy would just get mad at all of us. He couldn’t just get mad at one of us. He had to get us all.
“Ain’t nobody got—You know what? Go to bed! All y ‘all, go to bed!”
It’d be two o’clock in the afternoon. “Go to bed!”
We all laying up in the bed, the lights out. We just layin’ there, eyes wide open, mad. That was motherfuckin’ torture. We all in the bed, can’t go to sleep. My granddaddy would peek in the room and be like, “Close ya eyes! Close ya eyes!”
Two o’clock in the goddamned afternoon! You hear all the other kids playing outside and shit: “One potato, two potato, three potato, fo’ . . .” We can’t even look out the window. We just laying in the bed, ’cause my brother done said I had more ice cream. Ain’t that some shit?
I used to go to all kinds of lengths to get some snacks. I’ll never forget the time my grandmother took me and my sister with her to the market. We walkin’ around, and I saw this bag of marshmal-lows I wanted. And I kept asking her to get us some marshmallows or something. She kept telling me no. So I thought, Fuck it. I’ll get some for my damn self.
Soon as she walked out of the aisle, I broke open a pack of marshmallows and started diggin’ one of them sum’bitches out with my fingers. Man, it was good.
So I’m tryin’ to eat that muh’fucka fast—before my grandmother came back and caught me.
She came walking ’round that corner, man, I got scared as hell. I started tryin’ to chew all fast. Big Mama saw me and was like, “Boy, what you eatin’?”
I was like “mmnumphin’.” I’m trying to lie, but my black ass got white powder all around my lips.
She walked up on me and was like, “So what’s that in yo’ mouth?”
I couldn’t just start chewing in front of her, so I just started to suck on that motherfuckin’ marshmallow, tryin’ to get that bitch to dissolve. My cheeks all sunk in and shit. I’m thinkin’ if I suck it down, she won’t get me.
But you wasn’t just puttin’ anything over on my grandmother. She was gon’ catch my ass. “Spit it out!” she said. I’m still bullshit-tin’ like I don’t have anything. Sucking, sucking.
Man, don’t you know she just started diggin’ in my mouth? Right there in the aisle. Pieces of marshmallow all on her fingers and shit. “Gimme that! Give it here, got-dammit!” I’m busted like a muh’fucka.
Boy, she tore my ass up when we got home.
I remember one time, I stole a candy bar. I had wanted me some sweets, so I took it. I had really went in there to steal this rubber ball. Me and my friends had knocked our ball on the roof, so I went in to Stanle’s Store to get another one.
By me not knowing how to steal, I told on my damn self. I’m walking all around the store. First of all, I looked like I ain’t have no money. Second of all, I ain’t have no note. You know, back then, a lil’ muh’fucka wanted somethin’ from the store, he had to have a note from his mama.
So I’m walkin’ around. I see the ball. I put that ball in my draws and tried to leave.
Now, the man who owns the store sees me, right? And he know ain’t no eight-year-old with a dick like that. So either I was stealin’ or I had the blue balls.
Anyway, I made it to the door. The man was gon’ let me leave with the ball, too. Now, I done made it to the door—but I wanted some sweets. So I turned my black ass aroun’ and gon’ steal me a Baby Ruth!
I put the Baby Ruth in my shirt, started walking toward the door. So now, it looked like I had titties—huge, deformed cancer breasts—and a big-ass dick.
That old man caught me at the door. He said, “What you got?” I said, “I ain’t got nothin’.” He knew me, so at first he threatened to call my mama. But then he said, “Tell you what. I’m gon’ let you have the candy and the ball. But first, you gotta take that ball out of your pants and the candy out your shirt and walk out of here with it in your hand.”
I walked out, and at first, didn’t understand the message. But when I got older, I understood: He had given me a break, but he didn’t want me hiding the truth. Own up to what you do. We all will get breaks, but take advantage of the second chance. That’s what I learned—and I never stole again.
Well, not from him anyway.
Yeah, snacks, man. I wanted ’em, but couldn’t get ’em. Even when we would go out, we weren’t going out for good snacks. Like fast food? We never had no McDonald’s. We had White Castle. Two hamburgers and three fries apiece, and two drinks to split between me and my brothers and sisters. You’d take a sip. He’d take a sip. You’d take a sip. He’d take a sip. And we used to fight about who was going to have the last sip. We’d all be looking, watching—making sure nobody else got that last sip.
Then after we did all that fighting, it would always be my grandfather who’d take the last sip. He’d just grab the cup, swirl the ice around in it and say, “Aw, we ain’t even gon’ worry ’bout it—Slllllrrrrrrrrppppp—Ain’t no sense in arguin’ over it. Buurrrpp.”
We’d just be sitting there, looking at him like, “This nigga is cheap!”
That’s why I used to say that when I got grown, we were gon’ have snacks and food at our house. ’Cause we ain’t never have no snacks. No good food.
Northern beans. Red beans. Lima beans. Pinto beans. That’s all we ate. Chicken and noodles. Chicken and fries. On Friday, we’d have fish and spaghetti. Saturday we ate in church, ’cause they sold dinners. Sunday, my mama made a big dinner. Roast. Mashed potatoes. Hot butter rolls. She made a cake. I couldn’t wait for Sunday to come. Every Sunday, we had a good dinner.
Monday? Beans and rice.
That’s why with me, it ain’t about money. I’m doing great. I was doing great when I was poor. Y
We ate party meat—everyday. Party meat. I ate the shit out of party meat. Party meat, vegetables, alphabet soup. That was our lunch. Shit, I used to write sentences in the soup: “Help! Please, help!”
I ain’t lying. I was trying to send a message, man.
When you opened our refrigerator, all you saw was light. Lightbulb and butter, that’s all you saw. But we was happy as hell because I never had a sense of doubt as a little boy, I never had a sense of worry. I guess that’s why right now, I’m not a materialist cat because I never had those things around me. Suits? Cars? Shit, I didn’t have a key to the house until I was a senior in high school.
We used to have this station wagon when I was a kid. And when we’d go somewhere, we’d all pop in the station wagon. That was when people could still sit on your lap. Now, you can’t sit on no laps—but back then, there’d be eleven of us kids in one goddamn seat. And the windows didn’t let down in that muh’-fucka, either. We’d look like the Beverly Hillbillies, everybody’s face all smashed up against a window, complaining to my grand-daddy.
“Grandddaddy, his knee in my side!”
“Move ya gotdamn knee! Move ya knee. Move ya knee. Move ya knee. Move ya knee!”
That was the thing about my granddaddy: Whenever he warned ya, he would always tell ya things four, five times.
“I ain’t gon’ tell ya no more. I ain’t gon’ tell ya no more. I ain’t gon’ tell ya no more. I ain’t gon’ tell ya no more. Let me have to tell ya again.”
He ain’t never say nothing once.
by Bernie Mac have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes