What I Learned from Bernie Mac
From a Tumblr entry dated November 7, 2010….
As a writer-performer who currently only gets paid to be an advertising Account Executive, I am often faced with pushing away thoughts that no one gives a shit about what I do or what I have to offer when it comes to my creative pursuits. And a lot of people don’t. It’s okay. I am pretty sure Tina Fey would love for a somewhat personal project as 30 Rock to generate 10-15 million viewers each week instead of the 4-5 million it has averaged since its premiere in 2007.
Of course Tina has five emmys, industry respect and critical acclaim for her efforts. And she has been at this a helluva lot longer than I, but she along with author/journalist Johnny Diaz and musician Jay Brannan are the models I am following.
Tina Fey said in one of her many award acceptance speeches that it began for her with the writing. She was first an Saturday Night Live writer before stepping in front of the camera to co-host “Weekend Update” with Amy Poehler and then moving on to create, produce, write and star in 30 Rock where she solidified herself as a comedic actress. She then joined the current American comedy pantheon with her popular, Emmy-winning Sarah Palin characterization.
I discovered the very handsome Johnny Diaz on the cover of a local New England magazine I came across at the now-defunct Providence-based Reflections Coffee Shop in 2008. He was promoting his first novel Boston Boys Club and was the first gaytino author I had ever heard about. He was cute, so I immediately went out and bought the novel. It was one of those novels I took a liking to right away and couldn’t put down. Fortunately, his second novel Miami Manhunt was soon to be released and he was already working on a third to be called Beantown Cubans -- which was released in 2009. In addition to his authorship, Diaz is a journalist and local media writer for the Boston Globe. Like Diaz, I’ve always been writing. Unlike Diaz, I am coming to it professionally later in the game than he did and am still figuring the “get paid” part out.
Jay Brannan came to me via YouTube a few years ago. His shirtlessless and adorable self-deprecation drew me to his personal, heartfelt acoustic musical stylings. I became a fan, as did many others. Brannan has built his following largely online, which provided him the unique opportunity to tour across the world and release his own albums independently.
Being largely web-based myself, Brannan’s is one of a few avenues that could lead me to this Diazian full-time self-sustaining writing and performing career I have envisioned that, like Fey, begins with the writing and creating I am currently doing which will hopefully find some semblance of a following in the coming year.
So what does this have to do with Bernie Mac? Well, Mac spent 20 years as a stand-up comedian before breaking out with “The Original Kings of Comedy” tour alongside his peers Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and DL Hughley — all of whom were starring in their own sitcoms at the time. Mac was finally given his own sitcom in 2001— the critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning “The Bernie Mac Show”. The Bernie Mac Show achieved a level of mainstream success his contemporaries’ sitcoms did not.
As I watch people go viral on the YouTube or have their articles get passed around, forwarded and posted on the Facebook, I keep Bernie Mac in mind. He did his thing and came to do it very well if not better than others. It took some time to get there but he did. And I will too. Mac left behind a legacy of that classic breakout comedy performance and a sharply funny sitcom that allowed him to continue to be his edgy self with very little watering-down. I want that for myself. I’d rather not be a viral flash-in-the-pan. I want longevity so as to leave behind a body of work people can enjoy long after my time on this earth comes to an end. I will have that. I just have to continue to do I what do, get better at it and keep putting myself out there.
I just hope it doesn’t take twenty years.
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