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

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