Can anyone think of Eddie Murphy without immediately seeing that grin and hearing that fantastic laugh? Murphy's laugh has been entertaining the world since the late 1970s, when he got his first comedy break.
Eddie Murphy used his sense of humor to get him and his brother Charlie through their mother's illness as a child. The two had to live in a foster home for a year as she received treatment and recovered. Eddie began doing impersonations, inspired by comedians such as Peter Sellers, Redd Foxx, and Robin Williams. When he was 15, he realized he could have a career in comedy after listening to a comedy album by Richard Prior. That same year, he performed at a talent show, doing an impersonation of singer Al Green. In just a few years, his life would change.
In 1980 Eddie Murphy would become only the second Black male comedian to be hired as a cast member of Saturday Night Live. For nearly five years, he entertained American audiences with characters such as Gumby, Little Richard Simmons, and Buckwheat. Paste Magazine released a ranking of the 50 Best SNL Cast Members of All Time, with Eddie Murphy ranking #1. He is widely considered to be why the show survived when it was on the brink of cancellation.
His early comedy style was famous for its NSFW language and themes. Politically incorrect, he made fun of everyone and everything. Like Richard Pryor, the comedian that inspired him, Murphy didn't shy away from potentially offensive materials or controversy on stage. His popularity translated from the television set to the big screen, as his success as a fan favorite on SNL started getting the attention of those in Hollywood.
The eighties would not be the same without the films of Eddie Murphy. His screen debut was in 48 Hrs, a buddy cop action film with Nick Nolte, but it would be another buddy cop film two years later that would make Eddie Murphy a certifiable film star. Beverly Hills Cop was his first leading role and is the third highest grossing "R"-rated film of all time. He would leave SNL that year and become Hollywood's biggest box office star of the decade.
“Theres this little box that African-American actors have to work in, in the first place, and I was able to rise above that box. I could have done a bunch of movies where I stayed as the Axel Foley or Reggie Hammond persona. But I didnt want to be doing the same thing all the time. Every now and then, you crash and burn, but thats part of it.”
Unfortunately, the box office success didn't continue into the nineties, when he experienced more misses than hits. However, towards the end of the decade, Murphy found renewed interest in his work. He embraced family-friendly roles, both on-screen in The Nutty Professor and Dr. Dolittle, and as a voice talent in Mulan and the Shrek series.
Eddie Murphy has had a resurgence; his film Dolemite is My Name was distributed by Netflix in 2019 and widely embraced by fans and critics alike. It was also announced in 2019 that Murphy was filming Coming to America 2. It is highly anticipated and set to be released next month on Amazon Prime.
Eddie Murphy began singing in his comedy acts. In 1985 he released a musical album named How Could it Be, which brought him credibility as a recording artist when it reached and remained #2 on the Billboard Charts for three weeks. He's continued to sing in his films and release music. In 2015 he released a reggae single with Snoop Dog named Red Light.
Murphy has remained an industry favorite, celebrated and honored by his peers in tributes and honors. In 2015 he received a special tribute at the 40th Anniversary of SNL by Chris Rock, who has stated how influenced he has been by Eddie Murphy's career. That same year he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Mark Twain was a humorist known for embracing controversial social commentary and not hesitating to call out social injustice. The award is presented to those who have "had an impact on American society in ways similar to" Twain. In 2019 he received the Critics Choice Association's Career Achievement Award at their Celebration of Black Cinema. Here is the full list of Eddie Murphy's awards and nominations.
Eddie Murphy's vocal style says fun. It can make even the darkest days feel bearable. And the days that aren't dark — it can elevate those as well. AND THAT LAUGH. For those of us over 40-years old, Eddie Murphy's voice is part of the soundtrack of our lives. His voice is like a lifelong family friend.
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