Eddie Murphy DeliriousWatch
Eddie Murphy Raw 1987 Show Comedy Stand UpWatch
Eddie Murphy about men and womanWatch
|1998||All I "$%*@*#" Know|
|1997||Greatest Comedy Hits|
|1983||Eddie Murphy: Comedian
Won 1983 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording
|1987||Eddie Murphy: Raw|
|1983||Eddie Murphy: Delirious|
No books by or about this comedian.
Twenty million, thirty million—Forbes Magazine wasn’t counting the assets for some fat cat businessman. The magazine was counting up the take for a cool cat comedian—Eddie Murphy. He and Bill Cosby ended the 80’s earning more each year than almost any other entertainers. “Ol’ Cos,” like a veteran baseball pitcher, had spent decades achieving superstardom. Murphy, like a rookie “pheenom,” had seemingly come out of nowhere to conquer the comedy world while barely out of his teens.
Eddie was born in Brooklyn. His parents divorced when he was three. For a time after his father’s death he and his brother Charles were placed in foster care. His mother remarried when Eddie was nine, and the family settled in Roosevelt, Long Island. Eddie went to Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School, and performed at the Roosevelt Youth Center talent shows in 1976. Admittedly growing up in an environment far removed from the racism and taunts that Richard Pryor knew as a child, Eddie’s idol was Elvis Presley whom he thought “had more presence and charisma than anybody who ever existed.” When he got into comedy, the young kid gravitated Richard Pryor albums loaded with all that cool cursing.
On stage Murphy was Pryor without the hatred and bitterness. Murphy talked about sex like Richard, cursed like Richard, made faces like Richard. And when the cycle for angry young men ebbed and audiences wanted a smiling new face, Murphy took over for Richard. He rose quickly, performing at New York’s The Comic Strip for affluent East Siders who found his street jive an amusing novelty. Shortly after he was a regular on “Saturday Night Live” and soon the hit of the show. He began creating sketch characters. He fused Little Richard and Richard Simmons together for “Little Richard Simmons,” mimicked Stevie Wonder and Bill Cosby, and parodied Buckwheat of “Our Gang” and Gumby. Eddie didn’t ignore racial problems, but he presented them with surprisingly good humor in the ironic “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood” sketches and in his parodies of militant blacks like “Raheem Abdul Muhammad.”
Raheem kidded both blacks and whites. The Murphy message was lighten up, or get down, depending on who was listening. Raheem railed against the encroachment of whites—in basketball. Complaining about teams with “token whites” on them, he shouted, “This is the most disgusting thing y’all have pulled up to date. I mean we ain’t got much, at least let us have basketball! Is nothing sacred? Any time we get something going good, y’all move in on it. In the 60’s we wore platform shoes. Then y’all wore platform shoes. Then in the early 70’s we braided our hair…y’all braided your hair. Now it’s 1980, we’re all on welfare, and by the end of next year y’all will be on welfare too. I don’t see no judge saying that every two bathroom attendants have to be white! All I’m saying is y’all stick to playing hockey and polo and we’ll stay in the courts. I mean, if God would have wanted whites to be equal to blacks, everyone would have one of these!”
And with that, Eddie held up a giant radio.
Murphy not only became a hot TV star, he became a super star on the concert circuit. With his open leather jackets, gold chains and entourage, and his sold out concerts in the largest venues around the country, he carried himself not as a mere comic but more a cross between a rock idol and the Heavyweight Champ of the world. Eddie left “Saturday Night Live” to become a box office champ in films, concert touring and record albums.
Though his film “48 Hrs” was loaded with cliches and violence, it became a huge hit, and another mediocre concept, “Trading Places,” also bashed box office records. It was apparent Eddie Murphy could do no wrong. Monologues that seemed to be nothing but the mildly amusing anecdotes one might hear from any streetcorner wiseguy were being cheered by tens of thousands. The bigger Murphy got, the more incomprehensible his superstardom seemed to become. With the fad appeal came overkill. Murphy sensed it, sometimes upbraiding audiences for laughing when he hadn’t even said anything but a few curse words.
Eddie signed a fifteen million dollar deal with Paramount and scored his biggest hit in the one film that captured all of his charisma, swagger and good humor, “Beverly Hills Cop.”
The hysteria for Eddie Murphy intensified and the young star did his best to remain level-headed, vocal about his drug-free lifestyle. Still, the press, unable to gain access to the new superstar wrote with a certain hostility about his seeming arrogance, 3.5 million dollar home in New Jersey, hostile bodyguards and nubile girls all desperate to please the flaunting star/sex symbol. As with most comedians who earned fame through questionable material, the more it was questioned, the worse it became. At first Murphy cheerfully joked about Bill Cosby calling him up and telling him to clean up his four-letter act. Now, his stand-up show was intentionally dubbed “Raw” and the goofy put-downs of women, gays and Asians became more hostile.
Murphy was not very concerned with white Middle America’s desire for him to continue with his “Saturday Night Live” characters or his light-hearted action films with white co-stars. He began making films geared more for black audiences and featuring black co-stars. He turned from comedy records to record R&B songs like “Put Your Mouth On Me” and “Love Moans” which were beyond the tastes of his white liberal supporters. Instead of being cheerfully “Delerious,” the title of his new concert film was “Raw,” and it was cautiously panned by white critics (was it cool to really attack a hip black comic who might just be too hip for them to appreciate?). Female critics were more hostile. So were some audience members: a man was killed in a drive-in shootout in California on opening night, and according to Variety “unruly” crowds proved disruptive at several other venues. Premiere magazine calculated that “Raw” averaged a profanity every 10 seconds, compared to 53 seconds for “Blazing Saddles” and one every three minutes 20 seconds for “Rocky.”
Murphy’s first black-oriented films, “Coming to America” was viewed as benign, sophomoric (the requisite penis jokes) and middling. Then “Harlem Nights” was critically bombed. “There’s not an original idea in the movie,” said critic Roger Ebert, “and the modern four-letter dialogue is distracting in a period picture…” Partner Gene Siskel found it “shockingly embarrassing, with gross amounts of racist dialogue directed at both whites and blacks, a sexist portrayal of women…” Rolling Stone called the “rude, crude and misogynistic” film one of the worst movies of the year. Janet Maslin in The New York Times huffed Eddie “can continue to write his own ticket, since audiences will so eagerly pay to see him no matter what he happens to do.”
As Murphy partied in chic nightclubs headlines followed, calling attention to alleged skirmishes with women, fans and photographers. An ex-manager sued him demanding money. Gay groups protested his concerts. The kid who once couldn’t do anything wrong was now the big star who couldn’t do anything right. Eddie asked for a little understanding. In 1988 he said, “All I want to say is that I’m just as screwed up as everybody else, no better, no worse, and I’m just as capable of sinning or of doing good as anybody else. I’ve done some real mean things and I’ve done some kind things, too…I’m an abstainer of drugs and alcohol, and although I have lavished money, cars, and a house, I’m still a manic depressive. I still go up and down. Everybody does…sometimes I’ll wake up and want to cry, and not really have any reason.”
More scandals hit Murphy. He was accused of being selfish, taking eight million dollars for starring in “Coming to America” while histhree co-stars, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones and John Amos shared one million. Then he was accused of being a plaigerist. Columnist Art Buchwald successfully sued Paramount claiming the film was based on material he had submitted earlier. Murphy himself was cleared, but the studio lost the case and had to pay up. He was even accused of turning his back on his own people when he announced that “Harlem Nights” would not be shot on location in Harlem.
To restore his star lustre, Murphy found himself in a sequel, “Another 48 HRS,” which was greeted with mild approval and the hope for better work in the future. The fad for Murphy had risen and slumped at the start and end of the 80’s but into the 1990’s, Murphy remained a big box-office name in films and a powerful attraction whenever he chose to tour in stand-up comedy.