Stand-up comic and actor Bernie Mac exploded onto the screen with "The Original Kings of Comedy" (2001) after years of working comedy stages in his native Chicago. His edgy and largely autobiographical material about his background and African-American culture fell in step with a new wave of high-profile black comedians like fellow "Kings," D.L. Hughley and Steve Harvey. And like his "Comedy Kings" co-stars, his hilariously frank material led to Mac's own successful sitcom, "The Bernie Mac Show" (Fox, 2001-06). An increasing presence on the big screen as well, Mac's sometimes gruff but always memorable character roles began to give way to more challenging dramatic work. With the feature film, "Pride" (2007), it was clear Mac as artist had the depth and humanity to bring to the table, and was intent on raising the bar of what audiences and critics had come to expect from run-of-the-mill stand-ups-turned-actors. At the same time, Mac was promoting "Pride," he shocked the comedy world by announcing his retirement from stand-up, devoting himself to screen acting and producing after years of success on the comedy club circuit. Unfortunately, a year later Mac would die of an undisclosed illness, shocking fans of all stripes who grieved his premature departure.