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Actor and comedian Eddie Murphy began doing stand-up as a teenager. He became a popular Saturday Night Live cast member and starred in several box-office hits.
Eddie Murphy - Child Comic (1:02)
Eddie Murphy describes his admiration for Bruce Lee's ability to reach an audience.
Eddie Murphy describes sneaking out of the house to head to comedy clubs in hopes of getting a spot.
Chris Rock talks about being encouraged and helped by Eddie Murphy.
Actress-Director Rain Pryor talks about how her father Richard Pryor was a comedy pioneer with his raw stand-up performances and honest critiques of race.
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Eddie Murphy was born in Brooklyn on April 3, 1961. He began doing stand-up comedy as a teenager and later joined the cast of NBC's Saturday Night Live. At age 21, Murphy co-starred with Nick Nolte in 48 Hours and went on to further box-office success with Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop. He continues to star in many movies, including comedies, dramas and family films.
"I'd like to produce, direct, write, score, and star in a film in exactly the way Chaplin did. I'll do that before I'm 30."
"I'm relaxed about my career. I've been making movies for over 20 years, so I've earned at least the right to relax."
Eddie Regan Murphy was born on April 3, 1961, in Brooklyn, New York. He spent his early years in the projects of Bushwick with his father, Charles Murphy, a New York City police officer and amateur comedian, his mother, Lillian Murphy, a telephone operator, and his brother Charles. His parents divorced when he was three; five years later, his father died and his mother went into the hospital for an extended period.
When Murphy was 9 years old, his mother married Vernon Lynch, a foreman at a Breyer's ice cream factory, and the family moved to the primarily African-American suburb of Roosevelt, Long Island.
Murphy watched a lot of television growing up and developed a great skill for impressions, doing such characters as Bugs Bunny, Bullwinkle, and Sylvester the Cat. "My mother says I never talked in my own voice," Murphy later said.
Although he was never a dedicated student, Murphy found a great forum for his verbal agility in grade school, excelling in the popular game of "ranking"—trading witty insults with classmates. Hosting a talent show at the Roosevelt Youth Center at age 15, Murphy delighted his young audience with an impersonation of Al Green.
This early success ignnited a passion for showbiz, and Murphy began working on his comedy routines after school and performing stand-up at local bars, clubs, and "gong shows." His schoolwork suffered, however, and Murphy had to repeat the 10th grade as a result.
By doubling up on classes, and attending summer and night school, he graduated only a couple of months late. Murphy was voted the "most popular" boy in his graduating class. His declared career plan: comedian.
Responding to the pleas of his mother, Eddie Murphy enrolled at Nassau Community College and worked part-time as a shoe store clerk. He continued to perform in local clubs, and eventually worked his way into such New York City venues as the Comic Strip, billing himself as a disciple of the great comedian Richard Pryor.
Although his raunchy, profanity-ridden routines resembled his idol's, Murphy stayed away from drinking, smoking, and drugs, and would later declare to Barbara Walters, "I don't have to sniff cocaine to make me funny."
When Murphy learned that the producers of NBC's popular late night comedy show, Saturday Night Live, were seeking a black cast member for the 1980-81 season, he jumped on the opportunity. He auditioned for the part six times, and finally earned a place as an extra on the show. He appeared sporadically throughout the season, until one fateful night when producers realized they had four minutes of airtime remaining and no material.
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