From that point on, Murphy’s credits rolled like hard edge jokes from his tongue. In 1983, at the age of 22, he debuted his first comedy concert special, Delirious, an honest, high energy, flamboyant show tackling issues of race, celebrity, relationships and childhood. Four years later, he followed it up with a second special, Raw, which remains the highest-grossing comedy concert film of all-time, raking in over $50 million.
“We were kids. We were friends, and it was just a fun,” Wayans, who produced Raw, recalled. “There was no pressure. There wasn’t a minute that we didn’t think it was going to be funny, that it was going to work. So, to be in an environment like that, that’s a once in a lifetime thing.”
He adds, “When you look at Eddie’s achievement, you can see how far that we’ve all come because there is no one prior to Eddie that has this much body of work; this much success; this much box office; this much repeatability; this much worldwide appeal. He’s a phenomenon and the legacy he’s left has paved the way for an entire generation of comedians.”
Among those successors was Murphy’s older brother, Charlie, who attended the event with his mother and other members of the family. Charlie says his greatest memory of his younger sibling was watching his first live show.
“[Eddie] did an impression of Al Green, and came out with this suit on,” he remembered. “It was excellent. That was a real memorable moment. It made me scream. I won’t admit that to a lot of people.”
The Roots served as house band for the tribute, which will air Wednesday, November 14, and special guest performer Stevie Wonder further sang Murphy’s praises with “My Cherie Amour,” as well as a duet with the comedian on “Higher Ground.” Wonder pointed out that even those being spoofed by the comic, like himself, could enjoy the humor.
“To me, that’s human,” the singer said.
Murphy spoke briefly at the end of the event, saying it felt like someone had been “singing Happy Birthday” to him for hours and he was “Eddie-d out.” Asked about his own legacy, he says uncertain.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think I did my thing.”
Follow Courtney Garcia on Twitter at @courtgarcia