Eddie Murphy is dead. That is, the Eddie Murphy that ruled the comedy world for a decade and a half is dead. And this according to Drew McWeeny, writing for Yahoo news.
When Eddie Murphy took the stage during the 40th anniversary “Saturday Night Live” celebration, it was an oddly quiet moment, joke-free and brief. I didn’t think it was particularly problematic, but I also didn’t think there was anything special about it, and it bummed me out as a fan to see how little energy Eddie brought to a celebration of what was, after all, his breakthrough. For several years, that place was his home, and he was the king there. Forget some shitty throwaway joke David Spade made years later, and forget whether or not Lorne Michaels fully appreciates what Eddie did for the show. I was saddened by his appearance for the same reason I am always saddened by Eddie Murphy these days: because he is done.
All the evidence I need came from the account that Norm MacDonald shared a few days after the fact of how they had tried to get Murphy to play Bill Cosby for the Celebrity Jeopardy sketch. I’ve heard many theories about why Murphy didn’t do it, the most popular of which is that Murphy probably didn’t want to give Cosby any reason to dredge up Murphy’s own tabloid history, and maybe that played a part in it. But the truth is that Eddie Murphy’s comedy hasn’t had an edge in a long time, and once you give that up as a comic, that’s not something you can just return to ay time you want. Richard Pryor may have made more than his fair share of terrible sell-out movies like “Superman III” or “The Toy,” but his stand-up always remained blisteringly honest and uncompromising. Murphy hasn’t done any real stand-up in decades now, and he certainly doesn’t seem interested in being honest about himself or about where America is right now in terms of race. Murphy’s been making primarily family-oriented films for the better part of the last fifteen years, and the guy who shows up in films like “A Thousand Words” and “Daddy Day Care” wouldn’t even recognize the kid who made us laugh every week on “Saturday Night Live.”
I think this is a terrific column. You can read it in its entirety here.
I stopped watching SNL before the Eddie Murphy phenomenon. When the last member of the original wave, Bill Murray, finally left, that was all the SNL for me and I have never gone back. So, I don’t really relate to McWeeny’s ownership of Murphy. I do, however, appreciate some of the commentary on growing rich, old, and safe. McWeeny makes a good case and based on his arguments, I am in agreement. The Eddie Murphy who brought cool to comedy is not the Eddie that awkwardly took the stage during the 40th anniversary SNL celebration. The youthful energy, edge, and danger that Eddie brought to films like 48 hours and Beverly Hills Cop seems gone and gone for good.
But perhaps, it is the rare artist that can maintain edge throughout his entire career. Perhaps, it is the rare artist that is not finally seduced by fame, fortune, and good living. Hunger is a terrific fuel with which to stoke the artistic fire. Once the hunger is gone, maybe the fire dies. Or is it that once the fire dies, one ceases to be hungry.
Certainly, Eddie is not the only artist that has lost “it.” I think similar observations can be made of some hip-hop icons.
Ice – Cube is not the same Cube from the game changing rap group NWA. This Cube is mainstream! Sure, he may scowl, but he is scowling through family films and comedy movies. I think the same could be said of Dr. Dre. Dre make music, but Dre lives in an all- white, gated community; his kids go to swanky, mostly white private schools; his wife has a chauffeur; his friends are all white guys. Let’s face it, he is no longer Straight outta Compton. And somehow Straight outta Hidden Hills doesn’t have the same ring to it.
LL Cool J plays a cop on a television program, as does Ice – T. Yes! Guys who were once edgy and wore rebellion on their sleeves now portray police officers. Queen Latifah is now Mike Douglas!
I will go one step further and say that the biggest bad boy of them all, Howard Stern has lost some of his edge. Howard used be an outsider, a skewer of celebrity. Now, Howard is prime time! He is a judge on a prime time family how. His show is filled with references to his hanging out with celebrities, and discussions of his young, beautiful wife and the cats that roam their mansions. Are you kidding me?
No, Eddie may be a most perfect example, but he is by no means the only one. Maybe this is the natural order of things. Edge comes with youth. The young live dangerously, while the old enjoy living.
Enjoy your money, Eddie. You were great while you lasted. You owe us nothing.