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

Sundance OWN DC Universe Binge Guide Countdown The Arrangement Shudder NBC TruTV Spectrum Originals CNN spanish language cults cooking cancelled TV series 24 frames crime drama WGN Film Festival RT History psychological thriller true crime witnail Sci-Fi SDCC Acorn TV Sony Pictures Extras Britbox Anna Paquin spain Food Network USA aliens DirecTV Lionsgate dragons harry potter technology Red Carpet 45 natural history vampires Dark Horse Comics Trophy Talk Best and Worst 2016 Elton John canceled TV shows Mindy Kaling Star Wars TV renewals sitcom Opinion Netflix blaxploitation Superheroe Western breaking bad cars comic dc Disney Channel 2015 Trivia joker Pride Month Captain marvel PBS MCU Crunchyroll Awards Music DC streaming service MSNBC kids justice league Infographic CBS All Access south america award winner PaleyFest Amazon Calendar television IFC Films streaming Disney game of thrones politics Teen 71st Emmy Awards Drama Mystery theme song Pixar Trailer GLAAD TCM TCA 2017 Oscars renewed TV shows DGA Musicals Arrowverse Cartoon Network batman Warner Bros. Mary Poppins Returns YouTube Red Lucasfilm Thanksgiving sports spider-man zombies The CW Crackle ABC Family Amazon Prime Disney Plus AMC dramedy sequel Action Emmy Nominations Reality Competition BBC America romance Ghostbusters Universal Fantasy Year in Review LGBT comiccon cancelled Cannes Premiere Dates ghosts game show Superheroes ESPN Horror crossover Valentine's Day disaster nature Rock Quiz boxoffice slashers Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Stephen King spinoff First Reviews E3 TIFF period drama talk show latino Peacock Toys Rocky biography Turner spy thriller Christmas hist San Diego Comic-Con Set visit dceu Kids & Family Tumblr See It Skip It The Walking Dead Showtime Box Office Ovation FOX Summer E! First Look strong female leads adventure Classic Film Apple Song of Ice and Fire teaser YouTube Mary Tyler Moore jamie lee curtis Freeform composers USA Network Holidays Comics on TV Fall TV robots science fiction Brie Larson Shondaland based on movie The Purge doctor who Family Watching Series CBS Amazon Prime Video TV Land 2017 Comic Book transformers travel Country MTV LGBTQ space cats romantic comedy A&E Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Television Academy tv talk Reality Schedule Cosplay series Lifetime Certified Fresh Rom-Com Masterpiece TV Election Esquire festivals canceled Sneak Peek Creative Arts Emmys Pirates HBO Winter TV serial killer social media miniseries Tarantino NYCC green book Adult Swim Hulu zero dark thirty Rocketman CMT Heroines Interview Ellie Kemper revenge elevated horror Nickelodeon psycho Women's History Month Apple TV+ VICE free movies Comedy Central Nat Geo Epix ratings Star Trek Bravo 21st Century Fox Paramount Network SXSW golden globes animated Disney streaming service Emmys Vudu movies medical drama Marathons Nominations ITV National Geographic TCA docudrama Fox News Film anime adaptation Winners TBS 20th Century Fox book FX crime thriller TNT cancelled television Comedy Super Bowl hispanic zombie DC Comics VH1 Pop 2019 Spring TV discovery Character Guide History Sundance Now New York Comic Con The Witch unscripted video Mary poppins cops Animation thriller foreign political drama quibi IFC TLC RT21 ABC Biopics GoT binge finale Logo SundanceTV American Society of Cinematographers singing competition facebook diversity Marvel FXX Tomatazos Columbia Pictures supernatural GIFs APB mutant Paramount Spike 2018 X-Men cinemax Podcast richard e. Grant Chernobyl El Rey Polls and Games crime HBO Max WarnerMedia war BET Starz mockumentary historical drama what to watch cancelled TV shows BBC Writers Guild of America Walt Disney Pictures 007 children's TV toy story Mudbound Martial Arts President casting halloween Photos Grammys Awards Tour YA Musical Black Mirror Syfy YouTube Premium Turner Classic Movies police drama stand-up comedy Pet Sematary anthology CW Seed Video Games