As Chris Rock's big bro — and presidential running mate — in Head of State, Bernie Mac always reminds Rock where he came from. With his feisty advice, Rock stays squeaky clean in spite of Washington's soul-sucking political machine. In the parallel universe of showbiz, Mac says that same "keepin' it real" philosophy is why he's a happy, successful married man.

"I'm a blue-collar cat!" says Mac, who still lives in his hometown of Chicago when not filming Fox's The Bernie Mac Show. "I was a construction worker, school bus driver, cook... and I don't have any celebrity friends. I only have two buddies, who've been with me since I was 7 or 8."

If star-chasin' females ever whisper words of temptation in Mac's ear, he need only remember less fortunate times to get a reality check. "I think getting my success older helped my marriage," he says, referring to Rhonda, his better half since age 19. "My wife was the breadwinner for about eight years. I was doing odd jobs and comedy, and I was the house husband."

Fortunately, his rich family life brought comedic benefits. Mac's years of child-rearing provide endless fodder for his sitcom. And, by the way, his older brother was inspiration for his playfully abusive State character. "My brothers used to beat the crap out of me!" he recalls fondly, then pays a tribute to his own original queens of comedy: "Everything that comes out of my mouth is basically my mom and my grandmother. They used to spit venom!"