Eddie Murphy's road to international stardom started
innocently enough in Roosevelt, Long Island, where his parents moved to from Brooklyn
when he was ten. Roosevelt, a compact one-square mile of middle-classdom, boasts
an unusually disproportionate alumni of internationally renowned celebrities such
as shock jock-cum-actor Howard Stern, NBA Hall of Famer Julius "Dr. J"
Erving, rap supergroup Public Enemy's Chuck D and Flavor Flav and vocalists Aaron
and Damian Hall. Not bad for a postage stamp town.
Eddie Murphy absorbed
the lifestyle of Roosevelt like the proverbial sponge, focusing on his youth experiences
to draw the basis of "The Barbecue" and "Drinking Fathers."
Both skits are side-splitting accounts of an afternoon family get-together, with
near-disastrous results. But it takes a great storyteller with nerves of steel
to display so openly one's life to a live audience, to have them laugh at the
situation, but more importantly, laugh with you. Eddie Murphy's live comedy act
reveals quirks, bends and touches of irony.
Closets are thrown open, allowing
skeletons to rattle as loud as they can. A perfect example is the classic "Ice
Cream Man," a virtual time machine for any listener trained in childhood
to hear the ice cream truck above all other sounds and react like Pavlov's dog.
On the flip side of the piece, Murphy reveals the joint cruelty/pleasure children
can sometimes elicit.
Eddie Murphy was at the right place at the right
time for America. He recalls his frustration, early on, in getting the powers
that be to recognize his unique abilities: "I started out in comedy when
I was 15. I used to do bars and gong shows, stuff like that. I used to call agents
all the time and say, 'I'm a funny guy! Can you give me some work?' And they'd
say, 'Get outta here!'" The question begs to be answered: Where are those
agents now? Probably still kicking themselves over their colossal inability to
recognize talent. Broadway Danny Rose they ain't!
Murphy went on to become
the talk of the burgeoning New York comedy circuit and eventually parlayed that
into a 1980 audition for "Saturday Night Live." His four-year stint
with the show produced such memorable characters as the pimp Velvet Jones, the
intense and angry poet Tyrone Green, Mr. Robinson, a parody of Mr. Rogers, and
his most memorable character, Gumby.
Greatest Comedy Hits brings together
material culled from various phases of Murphy's stand-up career, as well as snippets
from several of his timeless movies. From his landmark and controversial "Eddie
Murphy Raw" in-concert movie, directed by a then-unknown Robert Townsend,
Murphy involves his audience in "The Barbecue," "Drinking Fathers,"
"Singers," "Cumin' Hard" and "Skeleton In Closet,"
while one of Murphy's most memorable "Saturday Night Live" characters,
"'Buckwheat'" and the nonsensical "Hit By A Car" are culled
from his debut album.
An aside: Murphy performed "Hit By A Car"
in his first-ever appearance on "The Tonight Show," and immediately
received the venerable Johnny Carson's stamp of approval. Murphy's brilliant and
uncanny impressionist skills are accented on "Old Jew" from his 1988
film "Coming To America," and "Grandma Klump," from his zany
1996 "The Nutty Professor," which, incidentally, received a 1997 Oscar
for Best Makeup, certainly a payback for the long hours Murphy spent under heavy
The essential Eddie Murphy is both irreverent and endearing.
There are no sacred cows in his world. Take, for example, "Singers,"
on which such vocal icons as James Brown, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson and
Stevie Wonder receive his sting. You just know Eddie Murphy had to be blessed
with a strong voice himself , which he intersperses within his skits for emphasis
and flavor, never failing to get a rise from his audience. That success gave Murphy
the confidence to cut two best-selling singles; his 1982 "Boogie In Your
Butt" from Eddie Murphy, and a collaboration with Rick James on the gold
1985 release "Party All The Time"(which actually sold a million copies,
but was released before the RIAA changed gold status from 1,000,000 to 500,000
and gave one million the platinum ranking it now holds).
You gotta love
Eddie Murphy because the man took us through the bullishly Reaganesque 1980's
with a bravado, yet charming comedic style that revitalized a seemingly interminable
industry slump. Don't bother looking; there is no more successful black actor
on the planet. Actually, having generated over $2 billion in revenue from "48
Hrs.," "Trading Places," "Beverly Hills Cop I, II & III,"
"The Golden Child," "Another 48 Hrs.," "Coming To America,"
"Boomerang," "The Distinguished Gentleman," "Vampire
In Brooklyn," "The Nutty Professor" and "Metro", it is
safe to say that Murphy 's ranking as a leading-man is immeasurable.