Monday, July 7, 2008

We Owned The 80's: Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy Owned The 80's.

After a few years of plying his trade as a standup comedian, Murphy joined the cast of an already slumping Saturday Night Live in 1980. I little-known fact is that Murphy actually stole that season's last featured player spot from none other than Robert Townsend.

Like a rookie Kobe Bryant, the show had no concept of Murphy's greatness and severely underutilized him. So bad was his first season that NBC fired the entire cast and the show's executive producer, only sparing Murphy and castmate Joe Piscopo, primarily because as featured (not repertory) players, they were cheap.

The next season, with a new, largely unknown cast and new producers, Murphy's status was elevated immediately. Thanks to those litigious bastards at NBC, I don't have many YouTube clips from the SNL era to embed here.

A bootleg version of Mr Robinson's Neighborhood if the best I could do. Sorry. If you know where to find more, let me know.

If you've been in a cave, or were just born after 1985, you can and should add Saturday Night Live: The Best of Eddie Murphy to your Netflix queue. It's comedic gold.

Anyways, despite the clear emergence of Murphy as the show's sole star attraction, NBC higher ups and the show's producer, Lorne Michaels, never liked the direction in which Murphy was taking SNL. His four seasons on the show were arguably the best in it's storied history, but so acrimonious was Murphy's relationship with Michaels, that once Murphy left the show for good in 1984, he was effectively written out of the annals of SNL history.

Seriously, except for that DVD series (which Murphy made no money from), he is largely invisible from any "Best Of" or "All Time" SNL retrospectives. For perhaps the last time evar, the words "Live From New York, It's Saturday Night!!!" actually meant something.

Murphy used SNL as a springboard to his movie career, beginning a strong series of comedies and recorded standup feature films.

Who can forget his butchering of "Roxanne" in the original 48 Hours?

Or his stereotypical streetwise hustler in the outrageous Trading Places?

Or the snarky Beverly Hills Cop?

Or the awful, supposed to be a Mel Gibson serious flick, The Golden Child?

And of course, the brilliant Coming To America?

Of equal impact were Murphy's full length standup movies, in the tradition of his idol, Richard Pryor. Who could forget 1983's Delirious?

And 1987's Raw?

Go ahead and call CPS on my parents, but I saw each and every one of the aforementioned films in the theater, as soon as they came out. And I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one. But they were always there, sitting a few rows behind me and my brothers, and used the ride home as a teachable moment. And I didn't turn out so bad, so there.

If only I could say the same for Murphy.

He Owned The 80's, which makes the subsequent decades so sad by comparison.

He did actually make some good movies after The Greatest Decade Evar. There was Boomerang, Harlem Nights, and Life. But his career really hit the skids with a string of questionable vehicles like A Vampire In Brooklyn, Metro, The Distinguished Gentleman, and Holy Man. Arrghhh.

Holy Man!!!

You could also say things bottomed out for him after that 1997 arrest for picking up a tranny prostitute. I'd prolly agree with you, because this seemed to signal a change in tone to more family friendly movies, which I could honestly do without.

Sure, the Nutty Professor was ok. But did anyone actually watch Daddy Daycare and Dr. Doolittle without wincing? And don't even get me started on that affront to black womanhood, Norbit. Sheez.

The gritty, streetsmart, jive talkin' Eddie from the SNL and Raw days is long gone, which makes a movie like his latest surefire bust Meet Dave so sad by comparison.

Seriously, are you gonna drop $40 to see that? I didn't think so. I won't even waste space in my Netflix queue.

Perhaps Murphy's gotten the hint, because I recently saw he's considering retiring from movies altogether and going back to standup comedy. And like another of my 80's Idols, Michael Jackson, I'll be right there in the audience if this actually comes to fruition.

Because when you take it back to the 80's, all is forgiven.

Well, okay, everything but Norbit.

Question: Would you pay good money to see Eddie Murphy do standup again? What's your favorite Eddie movie? What's the worst?

Eddie Murphy Retiring From Film; Back To Standup? [G4]

Eddie Murphy Wiki

More We Owned The 80's

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