Just this morning, our pals at Huffington Post Comedy, posted an excellent roundtable discussion featuring comedians W. Kamau Bell, Desiree Burch, Michael Che, Calise Hawkins, Phoebe Robinson and Baron Vaughn, in honor of Black History Month. The discussion spanned what it means to be a black comedian today, how socio-political comedy plays to American audiences going through tough economic times, and a lot more. In the below excerpt, Vaughn examines legendary comedian Dick Gregory’s thoughts on Richard Pryor’s stage act and how it relates to Pryor’s contemporary, Eddie Murphy. Check it out below and be sure to read the entire discussion over at HuffPo.
Baron: Well you know, something that I always loved, that Dick Gregory said about Pryor, he talked about the generation of comedians that followed Pryor, and he said something about how if you took Pryor’s quote-unquote foul language out of his act, then his genius is still apparent. But he thought that what happened was people came up that were copying the surface of what Pryor was doing, copying the language and felt that that was the key to the content. And in my personal opinion, and this is going to be the most controversial possible thing I could say, but I personally think that Eddie Murphy is the best-slash-worst thing that has happened to black comedy.
Phoebe: I could see what you’re saying with that.
Calise: Right, because that cadence and that sense of humor… a lot of people take from that.
Baron: Exactly, a lot of black comedians said, “Hey I can do this.” So he made it ok, or people felt, “Oh, I can have a voice on stage, too,” but then at the same time, people were copying this bravado, if you will.
Kamau: Here’s the thing: when people talk about Eddie Murphy as a stand-up, one thing that I’ve realized recently, is that he stopped doing stand-up when he was like in his mid-20s. His stand-up career only lasted publicly for like 6 or 7 years.
Desiree: That was a big 6 or 7 years, shit.
Kamau: I’m just saying, I feel like his stand-up career was not finished, you know what I mean?
Desiree: Yea, I know.
Kamau: I feel like we’re judging Eddie Murphy. Like he’s one of the most gifted comedians of all time, no question, and I sort of feel like it’s like an athlete who sort of pulled out right as he might have gotten really good.
Desiree: Yea, and it takes that time of earning it and working at it and figuring out what exactly you actually have to say.
Feel free to sound off in the comments section!