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

Animation Television Academy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt indie Podcast 007 Spike zero dark thirty Arrowverse psycho Super Bowl E! robots harry potter Chernobyl unscripted Bravo television cinemax natural history Oscars E3 Stephen King dark stand-up comedy Pirates TCA Winter 2020 series Sneak Peek WarnerMedia crime drama animated President parents TBS IFC Films RT21 travel FXX revenge Shudder emmy awards concert Disney streaming service The Walking Dead free movies TV Land technology discovery Writers Guild of America werewolf Binge Guide cancelled television Netflix Christmas movies tv talk GLAAD crime thriller Brie Larson cancelled TV shows A24 zombie Fantasy elevated horror Superheroe DC Comics boxoffice Tubi news Best and Worst NYCC BBC One Western TIFF San Diego Comic-Con casting Fall TV chucky Apple TV+ WGN PaleyFest Pet Sematary directors cancelled TV series Amazon Prime Universal golden globes Walt Disney Pictures 71st Emmy Awards cancelled Holidays renewed TV shows Awards ESPN ghosts Television Critics Association 72 Emmy Awards dragons 2017 APB Extras A&E blaxploitation festivals See It Skip It vampires Holiday Film Marvel Television twilight MTV Pop TV witnail Turner Classic Movies south america Sundance TV politics GoT quibi Amazon stop motion Avengers mutant TV films 4/20 Emmys Crackle CBS Heroines Disney Plus thriller political drama ratings sequels Mary poppins 2015 Countdown sequel The CW El Rey talk show Spectrum Originals MSNBC theme song Watching Series First Reviews 24 frames documentaries Spring TV Classic Film fast and furious Mystery game show Video Games documentary justice league Thanksgiving YouTube Red TV renewals Cosplay 45 crime VOD Martial Arts reboot Christmas IFC Teen dogs binge toy story American Society of Cinematographers BBC America versus 2016 anime Disney Opinion Kids & Family YA screen actors guild BAFTA Amazon Studios serial killer Lifetime Christmas movies Marvel Valentine's Day OneApp The Purge canceled TV shows spider-man space Apple Hallmark true crime YouTube Sundance Now FX teaser comic Hulu child's play comiccon 2019 what to watch Rocky sitcom Paramount OWN Action Emmy Nominations Cartoon Network HBO Nat Geo Dark Horse Comics spinoff CW Seed 20th Century Fox BET sag awards Trophy Talk Mindy Kaling TCM sports aliens Adult Swim Logo History Hallmark Christmas movies BET Awards Tumblr ITV Music DirecTV Warner Bros. Lionsgate dceu SundanceTV TCA Superheroes CBS All Access Women's History Month USA Network Black History Month hispanic The Arrangement award winner Premiere Dates a nightmare on elm street Reality franchise romance First Look Star Wars Election science fiction rotten movie YouTube Premium name the review Apple TV Plus Mary Poppins Returns NBC video on demand Ovation Starz HBO Go Star Trek VICE Marvel Studios Disney Channel die hard Tomatazos nbcuniversal Shondaland AMC police drama Summer stoner Netflix singing competition worst Winter TV Nickelodeon crossover miniseries Toys doctor who breaking bad Country docudrama Drama TruTV Infographic PlayStation adaptation Rocketman Esquire TLC richard e. Grant Britbox National Geographic DGA Crunchyroll Anna Paquin Calendar CMT independent Family Chilling Adventures of Sabrina ABC Family Certified Fresh Musical BBC ABC joker Black Mirror dramedy Fox News satire Acorn TV Sundance X-Men book Endgame comedies reviews obituary Polls and Games Set visit indiana jones psychological thriller war Ellie Kemper Comic Book social media nature cooking Interview criterion cats Comedy Central critics The Witch TCA 2017 Winners Hear Us Out cults finale SDCC 21st Century Fox cars laika superhero MCU strong female leads children's TV screenings Masterpiece adventure foreign based on movie canceled VH1 Sci-Fi GIFs movies Schedule HBO Max asian-american Grammys Horror Baby Yoda spanish language classics hollywood Mary Tyler Moore halloween Lifetime Rom-Com supernatural streaming Rock Ghostbusters Freeform transformers SXSW FOX 2020 Turner blockbuster batman LGBTQ scary movies spain Photos DC Universe Nominations Lucasfilm PBS Creative Arts Emmys Vudu Academy Awards slashers disaster historical drama Quiz RT History latino Epix cops Character Guide green book USA diversity Red Carpet best Food Network Biopics mission: impossible rotten movies we love facebook Trailer FX on Hulu DC streaming service zombies Travel Channel Mudbound universal monsters Columbia Pictures Song of Ice and Fire all-time composers mockumentary Marathons Film Festival Elton John New York Comic Con Tarantino Year in Review Peacock biography CNN video comics period drama Sony Pictures TNT Comedy medical drama spy thriller Musicals kids Pride Month Reality Competition 2018 anthology Paramount Network Amazon Prime Video Captain marvel Box Office cartoon game of thrones Disney+ Disney Plus jamie lee curtis romantic comedy Cannes TCA Awards Pop Pixar christmas movies Trivia Comics on TV Discovery Channel Awards Tour LGBT dc Showtime hist Funimation Syfy