Is Eddie Murphy the best and worst thing to happen to black comics?

By | February 2, 2012 at 11:42 am | 5 comments | feature slider, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Baron: Absolutely.

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!

About the Author

Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor in chief of Laughspin. He launched Punchline Magazine in 2005 (which became Laughspin in the summer of 2011) with childhood friend Bill Bergmann. Dylan lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons. He hopes the Shire is real.

  • Mr. Joyner

    Eddie Murphy being the best and worst thing to happen to comedy is only relevant if you are a comedian that feels like you are doing “black comedy” of which there is no such thing. It’s just comedy.   When people see someone who is as talented as Eddie Murphy it’s no different than watching an athlete or some other skilled practitioner work they make it look so easy that when someone who is starting out mistakes the, brash bravado that accompanies his comedy routine they often forget that the guy has more tools in his tool box than most comedians.  A lot of which are not just jokes.

  • Mr. Joyner

    Eddie Murphy being the best and worst thing to happen to comedy is only relevant if you are a comedian that feels like you are doing “black comedy” of which there is no such thing. It’s just comedy.   When people see someone who is as talented as Eddie Murphy it’s no different than watching an athlete or some other skilled practitioner work they make it look so easy that when someone who is starting out mistakes the, brash bravado that accompanies his comedy routine they often forget that the guy has more tools in his tool box than most comedians.  A lot of which are not just jokes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shane.hedmond Shane Hedmond

    This goes along with the argument that Michael Jordan “ruined” basketball after he retired.  People saw his success and thought it was easy.  They also saw the attention he got for being so good and they wanted that too, so it became less about the team and more about the individual.  I completely see where Baron is coming from, but, it’s not Eddie’s fault, it’s those who don’t completely understand why things are funny.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shane.hedmond Shane Hedmond

    This goes along with the argument that Michael Jordan “ruined” basketball after he retired.  People saw his success and thought it was easy.  They also saw the attention he got for being so good and they wanted that too, so it became less about the team and more about the individual.  I completely see where Baron is coming from, but, it’s not Eddie’s fault, it’s those who don’t completely understand why things are funny.

  • http://www.twitter.com/davebaxter1989 Davebaxter1989

    It seems to me that Baron was saying Murphy is Pryor sans social responsibility which I completely agree with, this is not to disparage Murphy just to say that given time maybe he would have injected that in and hopefully lost the rampant homophobia, surely just leaving the 80s would do that though. Plus being less that Pryor is hardly a bad thing, rather the norm.