The Michigan Chronicle Show Business Hall of Fame: Eddie Murphy


“Brash” is a word that perfectly describes Eddie Murphy and others like him, particularly when Murphy, now 49, was younger. It means being self-assertive, sometimes to the point of being overbearing.

Not a good quality for most people, but one that is useful for those pursuing a career in show business, where the odds of making it are so low.

Eddie Murphy (birth name: Edward Regan Murphy) had to be brash to have the nerve to audition for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” while he was still in his teens.

That audition was successful, making Murphy part of one of the best, most creative and funniest casts in the history of the show, which is now an institution. His castmates included Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Joe Piscopo.

“I’ve always had confidence,” said Murphy who, like so many others, cites Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby as early influences and sources of inspiration. “It came because I have lots of initiative. I wanted to make something of myself.”

Murphy was at his creative best during his tenure on the show, introducing unforgettable characters and doing hilarious takeoffs on everyone from James Brown and Mr. Rogers to Buckwheat and Michael Jackson.

There was something almost surreal about Murphy as the Godfather of Soul performing “Hot Tub” and even more so, wearing a dress and red curly wig doing a funky, James Brown-esque rendition of “Tomorrow” from the Broadway musical “Annie.”

BROOKLYN-BORN Murphy is ranked No. 10 on the list of the 100 Greatest Stand-up Comedians of All Time as compiled by Comedy Central, the cable television and satellite television channel.

Among his most recent triumphs are an amazing, Academy Award-nominated performance as James “Thunder” Early in the “Dreamgirls” film and being the voice of “Donkey” in the “Shrek” movies.

Murphy honed his craft by working comedy clubs around the country, certain that his big break would come. (He has apologized for sometimes having gone too far in his routines, thus hurting certain groups of people, including gays.)

Once established as a standup comedian and television laugh-getter, movies were the next logical step.

He made his big screen debut in “48 Hours,” co-starring with Nick Nolte. That 1982 film was a major success at the box office, as were so many subsequent films, including “Trading Places,” “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Coming to America,” “Harlem Nights,” “The Nutty Professor,” “Dr. Dolittle,” “Daddy Day Care” and “Boomerang.”

Murphy is, in fact, closing in on the 50 mark with regard to films made, but without a doubt there are some failures among them, both at the box office and in reviews.

ONE OF HIS least successful films, “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” was not only lambasted by critics, but by one of his sons as well, who described it as “corny,” much to Dad’s chagrin and bemusement. (Murphy, who has eight children, has joked about being “fertile.”)

But since the successes outnumber the failures, all is well in he historical sense.

It came as a major surprise to a lot of people when the superstar comedian/actor began making recordings. He actually made the national Top 10 on two occasions, “Party All the Time” (1985) and “Put Your Mouth on Me” (1989).

Two of his favorite singers are Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, even though he has poked fun at both.

Murphy won a Golden Globe Award in 2007 for his work in “Dreamgirls” in the Best Supporting Actor category, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award as Actor in a Supporting Role, also for “Dreamgirls.”

“In a business where success is an exception and not the rule, I’ve been successful,” said Murphy.

That’s putting it mildly. — SVH

From the Web