Eddie Murphy Is Ready to Look Back

Did you ever see a performer that made you think, Whoa, I have to wrap my head around this? What do you mean?

Was there ever anybody that made you feel like, I’ve got to understand what this person’s doing? Oh, you mean someone that came after me and went to the next level, and I was like, Whoa? No, never. I haven’t witnessed the next level. The ceiling of the whole art form, standup comedy, that’s Richard. And the ceiling for movies, for me, is Chaplin. I haven’t seen anyone come along that was better than Chaplin.

I always wondered if Elvis was the influence behind some of the onstage stuff you wore when you were doing standup. Elvis had a huge influence on me: the leather suits; in “Raw,” I come out, I have a scarf. I was rolling like Elvis, too. I didn’t have the Memphis Mafia, but I had my little crew of dudes. And the same way you see me dressed in “Delirious” and in “Raw,” I used to dress like that on the streets. I was totally in my Elvis trip. And when I got older, it was like, oh, my God, Elvis wasn’t cool at all. Elvis was going through some [expletive]. Now, Michael Jackson, that whole red jacket thing in “Thriller”: “Thriller” is after “Delirious” when I owned the red suit. I’m not saying he was influenced, but I had on the red jacket before. [Laughs.]

Elvis, Michael Jackson, these guys achieved the apex of fame. Prince is another like that. And there was a period when you were at that level. Yeah, I went through all of that.

Those guys all came to tragic ends. Do you understand the pitfalls that present themselves at that level of fame? Those guys are all cautionary tales for me. I don’t drink. I smoked a joint for the first time when I was 30 years old — the extent of drugs is some weed. I remember I was 19, I went to the Blues Bar. It was me, Belushi and Robin Williams. They start doing coke, and I was like, “No, I’m cool.” I wasn’t taking some moral stance. I just wasn’t interested in it. To not have the desire or the curiosity, I’d say that’s providence. God was looking over me in that moment. When you get famous really young, especially a Black artist, it’s like living in a minefield. Any moment something could happen that can undo everything. It was like, all of this stuff is going on, and I’m totally oblivious. Now, at this age, I can look back and be like, “Wow, I came through a minefield for 35 years.” How do you make it through a minefield for 35, 40 years? Something has to be looking over you.

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