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

USA Network spy thriller technology independent mockumentary PlayStation miniseries Apple TV+ cats Election Logo CW Seed worst crime drama emmy awards Western Rock joker police drama Writers Guild of America medical drama Starz Rom-Com Brie Larson Paramount Network movie Red Carpet blockbuster festivals dceu YouTube criterion Bravo festival screenings Columbia Pictures Film The Purge Creative Arts Emmys Kids & Family a nightmare on elm street blaxploitation Drama Syfy Photos zombie diversity Television Critics Association Pop TV GIFs Netflix Christmas movies Alien Hear Us Out IFC RT History Reality Competition what to watch Acorn TV First Look asian-american Netflix NBC Holidays E3 Elton John zombies Amazon Comedy Lucasfilm Esquire Calendar Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Marvel Television SundanceTV TruTV quibi spain hist El Rey stop motion 99% FXX The Arrangement Fall TV PBS anthology American Society of Cinematographers mutant sitcom MTV rt archives Sneak Peek Endgame video HBO Max CMT Winter TV deadpool psychological thriller History Disney anime Mudbound romantic comedy universal monsters parents Biopics Tumblr Spike Pirates TIFF dogs Star Trek superhero cops political drama Pop sequels satire free movies TLC National Geographic Cartoon Network directors Marathons child's play AMC Hulu Extras ghosts Disney Plus breaking bad sports singing competition casting stand-up comedy unscripted tv talk Marvel hispanic GLAAD TCA 2017 ABC hollywood HBO Go best Apple documentary DC Universe Summer halloween science fiction travel true crime Marvel Studios stoner Comics on TV theme song spinoff Winners Hallmark Mary poppins MCU teaser Baby Yoda DirecTV series TV TCA Winter 2020 films PaleyFest X-Men video on demand animated CNN based on movie Amazon Prime BET Awards Epix Comic Book Super Bowl spanish 24 frames Britbox TV renewals Binge Guide Teen all-time See It Skip It TCM south america Black Mirror Adult Swim Film Festival Cannes 71st Emmy Awards TV Land Paramount award winner IFC Films Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Watching Series Video Games GoT richard e. Grant canceled TV shows documentaries The Academy latino cinemax A24 Sony Pictures french Classic Film DC Comics fresh Lionsgate Funimation space children's TV japanese Superheroes boxing Crackle Turner Disney streaming service crime 2016 LGBTQ comics harry potter 72 Emmy Awards Oscars TBS Interview Spectrum Originals foreign Food Network Musical book BBC One toronto die hard Pet Sematary jamie lee curtis nature comedies Opinion ITV Dark Horse Comics Universal nbcuniversal Masterpiece reboot worst movies Horror critics FOX Christmas robots Martial Arts historical drama Mary Poppins Returns Star Wars Valentine's Day screen actors guild supernatural Musicals halloween tv Music Shudder WGN YouTube Red talk show SXSW Peacock green book scorecard USA San Diego Comic-Con BAFTA golden globes Emmy Nominations cancelled Comedy Central composers serial killer franchise Year in Review ESPN Awards disaster Hallmark Christmas movies Travel Channel President Infographic VOD Ghostbusters 2020 streaming Disney Channel Tubi Character Guide Pixar crime thriller HBO dc Avengers ID cancelled TV shows Trophy Talk Ellie Kemper renewed TV shows OneApp Trailer reviews Showtime black ratings The CW Sundance TV FX on Hulu Amazon Studios New York Comic Con adaptation Spring TV DC streaming service archives kids BET Freeform binge thriller boxoffice Animation Fox News italian james bond Certified Fresh revenge chucky justice league sag awards 4/20 Television Academy Disney+ Disney Plus ABC Family Anna Paquin football WarnerMedia docudrama 2017 Shondaland finale TCA rotten movies we love crossover cancelled TV series politics adventure BBC australia Nominations cars strong female leads Arrowverse Superheroe laika dramedy 21st Century Fox The Witch spider-man Walt Disney Pictures Academy Awards YouTube Premium Amazon Prime Video Holiday venice 45 Mary Tyler Moore zero dark thirty biography facebook Rocky First Reviews Podcast batman remakes 2015 BBC America comiccon Best and Worst Quiz war comic books indie Ovation YA Black History Month Toys natural history 2019 FX Fantasy 2018 Nickelodeon Sundance OWN rotten CBS All Access Cosplay Awards Tour Schedule Trivia christmas movies CBS cancelled television Reality period drama Stephen King mission: impossible cooking toy story VH1 aliens vampires 20th Century Fox Turner Classic Movies Crunchyroll television Heroines Discovery Channel Apple TV Plus social media RT21 LGBT slashers Lifetime obituary Fox Searchlight werewolf Rocketman The Walking Dead 007 Chernobyl Set visit VICE SDCC concert Mystery Country movies Sci-Fi Box Office Vudu Sundance Now Tomatazos Women's History Month Tarantino discovery psycho TCA Awards dragons twilight Action name the review canceled MSNBC Countdown APB A&E fast and furious Captain marvel DGA Premiere Dates scary movies romance game of thrones Grammys Thanksgiving Warner Bros. nfl Family NYCC sequel TNT Lifetime Christmas movies classics game show Emmys doctor who dark indiana jones witnail Polls and Games spanish language news Song of Ice and Fire Nat Geo cartoon comic Mindy Kaling transformers elevated horror E! Pride Month cults versus