EDDIE MURPHY is WSJ. Magazine’s ENTERTAINMENT INNOVATOR 2019!
As a comedian and an African-American, Murphy pushed boundaries, opened doors and made millions. Next year will mark Murphy’s 40th year as an entertainer, and it’s shaping up to be a big one.
In the coming months, he will finish filming “Coming 2 America,” host Saturday Night Live, prepare for a reboot of “Beverly Hills Cop” and, most notably, stage a return to stand-up comedy, an arena he stepped away from more than 30 years ago.
Eddie Murphy on giving up movies to do stand-up: Once I get back onstage, I kind of feel like that’s what I was born to do more than anything. When I get back on the stage, I can’t imagine wanting to do movies again.
What I like to do more than anything is just be home with my family, chilling. It’s really easy to feel like you’re working when you make a movie. You’ve got to get up at five, six in the morning. I started making movies when I was 20 years old, when I made 48 Hrs. That’s f—ing 38 years. You’ve been on a movie set, you see how this shit is. It’s not a fun process. Once I get back onstage again, I want to do whatever, be funny—I can do that whenever I want to. You know? But making movies? Being an old dude in the movies? That’s not it. Let them watch me get old, get all old looking. Like, “You see Eddie’s new movie? He looks terrible.”
On stand-up comedy in the “woke” age: Before there was the #MeToo movement, all this stuff that’s going on, the woke stuff, whatever y’all are calling it. People would talk shit, get bent out of shape. I had to apologize for stuff. And that was, you know, 30 years ago. Now everybody gets treated the same way. But it’s not like I’m looking at it like, “Oh, now I don’t know if I can do stand-up because it’s changed.” It’s like, it changed for everyone else. That’s the way it always was for me. The difference is now I’m sitting and seeing how shit is. So when I put my stuff together, I ain’t stepping on nobody’s toes, giving nobody reasons to picket me and all that shit.
On social media: I’m going to be 60 in two years. I’ve got 10 kids. I’m trying to spend quality time with the family. I couldn’t give a f— what’s going on, on social media. Asking people to follow me and all that shit. Who’s trolling who. Who tweeted. People posting selfies and all that. We were here before all this shit happened. We are going to die out, then it’s just going to be like it was the normal thing. But even though I don’t use social media, I’m up on the comedians. I got Netflix and all that shit. I just don’t tweet.
On his comeback: I’ve been wanting to get back on the stage for years, waiting for the right moment. For at least 10 years I’ve been thinking about doing stand-up. And now it’s like, OK, this is perfect. This Rudy Ray Moore movie, it’s funny, it will get shit stirred up. Go on SNL, get shit stirred up a little more. That’s the perfect environment.
On the evolution of comedy as an art form: The art form tells more of a story than it ever has. You’ve got a genius like Dave Chappelle. You’ve got so many types of comedians. When I started doing comedy, comics were opening acts. That was the best you could hope for. Now you’ve got comics who have never had TV shows, never been in a movie, making $25 million a year. And starring at the Garden three nights. Being a stand-up comic used to be this fringe thing, and now it’s like, you know, singing, dancing and all the other shit.
I’m the first one. I’m the first of the rock star comics, doing arena tours, with leather suits. Raw is still the biggest stand-up concert ever, in over 30 years. Still.
On the high expectations people have for his comedy, given his legendary status: Everybody’s got this expectation. I don’t even know what’s going to come out. I know I’m still the same dude. I’m still the same person. I’m older, and I’ve changed the way people change when you get older. But whatever mechanism made me funny, how I come up with jokes—I’ll be at the house and funny shit still comes out of my mouth. I’m curious to see what happens when I put it all together and get onstage. I hope to live up to everybody’s expectations. Whatever it is, it’s going to be me.
[Photo Credit: Josh Olins/WSJ. Magazine]