The great comedian Bernie Mac, who died too young last week, went to Chicago Vocational High School on the far South Side. One of his teachers, David McGrath, remembers Bernie well.
Thirty-six years ago, I was one of society’s unwelcoming hosts to Bernie Mac, when he was a tall, skinny kid in my freshman English class at Chicago Vocational High School.
At 14, and before he had changed his name from Bernard Jeffrey McCullough, he already was accumulating fans, the most rabid of whom were the other 27 students in my class. They thought he was “crazy-funny,” especially when he shouted out answers to elicit their laughs.
“Class, let’s have some quiet,” I once said. “In this compound sentence, what part of speech is ‘but’?”
“The rear part,” shouts Mac.
Anyone who has ever been in high school can imagine the reaction.
I was a nervous, first-year teacher, intent on impressing the principal with my class-management skills, in hopes of gaining tenure.
Bernie Mac was the class cutup, a compulsive performer, to whom audience approval was more important than my lesson plans or his grades.
Read the whole story here.