Bernie Mac by John Sciulli/ Bernie Mac by John Sciulli/
Bernie Mac, who rose from playing standup gigs on Chicago's South Side to perfect his cool, outsized persona in Hollywood blockbusters as well as creating his own sitcom, has died. He was 50. The comedian died Saturday morning from complications due to pneumonia, his publicist announced, shocking family, friends and fans who had expected him to recover. "The world just got a little less funny," his

Ocean's Eleven co-star

George Clooney told E! Online . "He will be missed dearly." Born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough, Mac started performing on Chicago's stages in 1977, at the age of 20. But he had been telling jokes in front of a crowd since he was a child, entertaining people at church, in parks and even on trains. When he was 32, he won the Miller Lite comedy search, which soon led to regular appearances on shows like HBO's Def Comedy Jam and the start of his film career. He first played a bit part as a club doorman in the Damon Wayans movie Mo' Money in 1992. Over the next decade he turned up in Friday, Booty Call, Get on the Bus, and several other films. In 2000, the concert film The Original Kings of Comedy introduced Mac's raunchy yet surprisingly heartwarming humor to a wider audience. He had a huge year in 2001, when The Bernie Mac Show debuted on Fox. The show, which garnered him two Golden Globe and two Emmy nominees, featured Mac coolly dispensing wisdom, sometimes directly to the camera, about child rearing, race relations and anything else that came to mind. Niecy Nash, who co-stared with Mac on the show and in the film Guess Who said his death was a loss to the acting and comedy communities. "Bernie Mac was the personification of the word 'real.' He kept it real," Nash told E!. "That kind of genuine spirit that he carried all the time cannot be easily duplicated, but I will do my very best to try." A month after the show debuted, Mac also appeared in his first blockbuster, joining Clooney, Brad Pitt and a slate of other big-name actors to kick off the Ocean's Eleven franchise. Mac's later box office hits included Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and Transformers. "Bernie was one of the greatest friends a person could have," Chris Rock, who starred with Mac in Head of State, told E! "Losing him is like losing 12 people because he absolutely filled up any room he was in. I'm gonna miss the Mac Man."
The Bernie Mac Show
folded in 2006, allowing Mac to focus on films. But he also wanted to slow down, telling David Letterman on CBS's Late Show last year that he planned to retire after completing the comedy film, The Whole Truth, Nothing but the Truth, So Help Me Mac. "I'm going to still do my producing, my films, but I want to enjoy my life a little bit," Mac told Letterman. "I missed a lot of things, you know. I was a street performer for two years. I went into clubs in 1977." The comedian suffered from the inflammatory lung disease sarcoidosis, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005. His publicist Danica Smith said his treatment for pneumonia was not related to the disease. FOX Broadcasting and 20th Century FOX said in a statement: "Bernie Mac was a gifted talent whose comedy came from an authentic and highly personal place. He was a tremendous live performer and a wonderful actor. FOX was proud to be the home of The Bernie Mac Show, and all of us at FOX and 20th Century Fox Television extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Rhonda and daughter JeNiece. What will you miss most about this beloved actor and comedian? Related " Bernie Mac Responding "Well" to Pneumonia Treatments " Use Our Online Video Guide to Watch More Bernie Mac