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

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