From the Vaults: An interview with Charlie Murphy… RIP Darkness

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Like everyone, I was completely stunned by the untimely death of Charlie Murphy. The man who made his way into our hearts after his roles on the Chappelle Show, Murphy had been doing standup for decades before finally getting the credit he was due, and he still had dates on the books when he passed away yesterday after a bout with leukemia. A Navy veteran and veteran of the comedy circuit, Murphy will forever remain a in our hearts and in the lexicon of great standup comedians. I was lucky enough to talk to Charlie Murphy back in 2009 as he prepared to film a standup special at the Wilbur Theater in Boston. It just seems right that I share it with you now.

The following is the transcript from out interview 8 years ago. Ladies and gentlemen, Darkness.

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Serving in the Navy until 1984, Charlie Murphy returned from the service just around the time his brother Eddie became an international comedic (and action) superstar. Boldly deciding to follow in his brother’s footsteps, Charlie lurked in Eddie’s shadow for more than two decades. Despite several small roles in blockbuster movies, it wasn’t until his recurring skits as the incidental and exaggerating storyteller in “True Hollywood Stories” on the Chappelle Show that Charlie Murphy’s name gained worldwide acclaim and became a household name. Now, five years after his infamous sketches of playing basketball with Prince and receiving the Rick James smackdown, Charlie now hosts a weekly sketch comedy show on Crackle.com and will appear tonight at the Wilbur Theater for a live taping of his upcoming DVD special.

It’s rare for two famous comedians to come from the same family. Was there some part of your family history or upbringing that provided both of you with the tools to become comedians?

No. Not that I can put my finger on. I’ve always been the person I am today. I never had aspirations to do standup. When the opportunity came, it came when I had all of the things necessary to do standup. I’d been writing for over 20 years. I had films, plays, videos and I was writing music. So my writing sensibility was already there. Then I had the experience of being the fly on the wall watching Eddie and Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence develop their routines. So I knew the process.

Did you feel like you had a lot to live up to with Eddie your brother?

Absolutely. When I knew I wanted to do this I knew I couldn’t be mediocre. I knew that I had to maintain a high level of space from the artform in the way he accomplished it.

Did your brother give you any tips when you made your way into comedy?

No, no one gave me tips, except this one: “when you start doing this, you can never stop.”

What are your comedic outlets now that “The Chappelle Show” has come to an end?

Well right now I have a sketch comedy show on Sony’s website Crackle.com [called Charlie Murphy’s Crash Comedy posted every Friday]. I got a movie “The Hustle” coming out in the summer and a book called “The Making of a Standup Guy” which is coming out in August.

How did you get involved with Dave Chappelle?

He called me up. He was a fan of mine from the movies I’d been in and I was a fan of his from the movies he’d been in. He had a show and he had a role for the part of “Tyree” and my name came up.

Do you miss being involved in that show?

I think everyone misses that show being around.

How true are the “True Hollywood Stories” that you became famous for on The Chappelle Show?

It’s every bit as true as every movie you’ve ever seen.

Did you consider yourself a comedian when you were in the Navy?

The Navy is where I became an adult and where I learned to pay attention to detail. The Navy is where I came to realize I was not a stupid person and could do anything I set my mind to. I wasn’t a comedian, but was I a fun dude to hang out with… hell yeah. There’s a distinction. Every crowd has a jester. Every barbershop has a jester. There’s always a classroom clown… blah blah blah. In every situation there’s someone who is the funniest thing going, but that’s not a comedian. You can’t just take those skills and make it as a comedian.

 

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