News

Fatherless Star Baron Vaughn's 7 Most Influential TV Father Figures

The Grace and Frankie star reveals which comedians served as surrogate father figures during his childhood.

by | March 31, 2017 | Comments

Baron Vaughn in Fatherless (Fusion)

Comedian and actor Baron Vaughn might be armed with plenty of jokes at his day job as a stand-up comedian, but the 36-year-old gets heartfelt and honest in his new documentary Fatherless. The film, which premieres Sunday, April 2 on Fusion, follows the Grace and Frankie star as he sets out to find the dad he has never known while grappling with his feelings for the man who abandoned him and his mother.

Through it all, Vaughn, 36, never loses his endearing sense of humor. It’s that consistent thread of levity that buoys Fatherless during its most raw and uncomfortable moments. Ahead of Fatherless‘ premiere, Vaughn sat down with Rotten Tomatoes to talk about the seven surrogate TV fathers and comedians who gave him a sense of guidance and manhood when he needed it the most.


Richard Pryor

Fans don’t necessarily think of Pryor, who died in 2005 at the age of 65, as the fatherly type. But the legendary comedian not only had seven children of his own, he played fatherly figures in flicks such as Bustin’ Loose and The Toy. 

Vaughn said he admires Pryor’s “natural ability to be hilarious,” and one of the strongest moments in Fatherless comes when Vaughn interviews Rain Pryor, the funnyman’s most famous daughter. But while Pryor might’ve put on an easygoing persona for the rest of the world, Rain Pryor said her father’s drug addiction and womanizing made him hard to love as a dad.


Robert Townsend

Innovative and prolific comedian, producer, director, and writer Townsend helped launch the careers of Keenen Ivory Wayans, Damon Wayans, Tommy Davidson and David Alan Grier with his Partners in Crime comedy specials on HBO.

“I’ve always been a comedy nerd,” Vaughn said, “and Partners in Crime was probably more influential for me than anything else because it was not only standup, but Robert Townsend had those short films. Those short films were sketches that bridged comedy generations between Grier and the Wayans with comedians like Franklyn Ajaye and Robin Harris.”

Vaughn continued, “It was a big thing for me to see what I now understand is an example of community. He brought all those people to one place to make comedy.”

Townsend also starred as TV father Robert Peterson on The Parent ‘Hood, which aired on the WB from 1995-1999. In real life, he’s a divorced father of three.


Eddie Izzard

Vaughn said he admires Izzard‘s fearlessness and theatrics.

“I saw him when I was 17 and I was blown away by his style and his voice,” he said.

Vaughn added that he majored in theater at Boston University in part because he was inspired by the British comedian’s command of the stage. Izzard also starred as TV dad Wayne Malloy on two seasons of the FX con-artist drama The Riches.


Eddie Murphy

The other famous Eddie in Vaughn’s repertoire of male role models includes none other than former Saturday Night Live star Murphy. The father of nine grabbed Vaughn’s attention on SNL but has also played big-screen dads in movies such as Daddy Day Care and Imagine That.

“He unapologetically helped define black masculinity and comedy in the ’80s,” Vaughn said.


Heathcliff Huxtable

The public’s perspective on Bill Cosby has changed dramatically now that more than 60 women have leveled accusations of sexual assault against him. But his Cosby Show character Cliff Huxtable, a loving and devoted husband, father, and family man, inspired many kids in the ’80s and early ’90s — including Vaughn.

“You can’t erase Bill Cosby’s contributions,” Vaughn said. “That’s the conflict. He’s one of the most influential comedians of all time, and The Cosby Show is one of the most influential sitcoms ever. When I watched as a kid, I wanted Cliff to be my dad. Everybody did. He was dope.”


Dana Carvey

The Saturday Night Live alum is a dad who has never played one on TV. But Vaughn said Carvey‘s 1995 HBO stand-up special Critics’ Choice had a major impact on his comedy education.

“Dana Carvey is so cerebral, weird, and confident in that special,” Vaughn said. “It’s great.”


Paul Rodriguez

Rodriguez, a father of two, helped pave the way for comedian-turned-TV-dad George Lopez. His long line of credits include roles in films like Ali, which starred Will Smith, and the 1987 Cheech Marin comedy Born in East L.A., and he will soon be seen in Netflix film Sandy Wexler, which stars Adam Sandler.

“Paul is brilliant and underrated,” Vaughn said.


Fatherless premieres Sunday, April 2 at 9 p.m. on Fusion; Grace and Frankie season 3 is now streaming on Netflix

Tag Cloud

TCA 2017 composers Comedy Biopics vampires TLC Election travel medical drama SundanceTV Dark Horse Comics docudrama 2015 USA Thanksgiving binge CW Seed supernatural VICE crime drama Rock PaleyFest Horror DirecTV psycho Ghostbusters Premiere Dates sports Musicals Summer ratings TruTV discovery 45 Fall TV serial killer harry potter Rocky Acorn TV political drama Disney Watching Series APB Western Box Office dceu Polls and Games Comic Book science fiction Pop TV Land DC Comics TBS Reality Competition Grammys Sony Pictures Holidays PBS El Rey adventure Sundance 2017 Lifetime Universal Interview Tomatazos GIFs Valentine's Day cooking Cosplay Paramount Network Extras BBC America Character Guide Action Podcast Awards History Lionsgate ABC Family Logo Nickelodeon Hulu Esquire NBC technology RT History Starz X-Men aliens DC streaming service FX HBO Nominations TCA Star Wars NYCC VH1 MSNBC romance crime thriller zombie Kids & Family GoT period drama Emmys sitcom Animation Cartoon Network YA Showtime USA Network TIFF Rom-Com ABC See It Skip It Amazon CBS All Access TCM CBS cinemax 24 frames Music Writers Guild of America Crackle Video Games Ellie Kemper what to watch Warner Bros. Disney Channel Countdown Comedy Central 20th Century Fox war A&E Sci-Fi comiccon Superheroes Martial Arts Schedule Drama ITV Winners Oscars Christmas Food Network GLAAD Marathons CNN E! Tumblr President SDCC Paramount spy thriller Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Certified Fresh Britbox Sundance Now The CW E3 boxoffice Marvel biography The Arrangement thriller Best and Worst Adult Swim Trivia BET FXX police drama Musical MTV Trailer Bravo Lucasfilm TV Star Trek TNT cops historical drama 007 Photos IFC Films Super Bowl Reality Mindy Kaling DC Universe Masterpiece Nat Geo Pirates ESPN Calendar FOX Teen politics WGN Spike cats 2016 Netflix Sneak Peek dc based on movie Toys cults dramedy 21st Century Fox Mary Tyler Moore Fantasy Country Year in Review Creative Arts Emmys singing competition diversity AMC American Society of Cinematographers golden globes IFC Fox News BBC Opinion Syfy talk show OWN crime Infographic Red Carpet social media Winter TV Pixar Mystery Spring TV unscripted CMT LGBTQ Freeform First Look transformers Set visit justice league