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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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They pushed Murphy before the camera, and told him to do his stand-up routine. His improvised performance was called "masterful" by Rolling Stone, and Murphy became one of only two cast members (along with Joe Piscopo) asked back for the next season.
Murphy became Saturday Night Live' s strongest comedic presence, creating such memorable characters as Mister Robinson, an urban version of TV's Mister Rogers; an older version of the Little Rascals character,
Buckwheat; and an illiterate convict and poet named Tyrone Green. He also continued his skillful impersonations, adding Bill Cosby, Muhammad Ali, James Brown, Jerry Lewis, and Stevie Wonder to his repertoire. Murphy received criticism for his satirical characterizations based on black stereotypes. He defended his performances, claiming that his characters were far too absurd and abstract to be taken seriously.
In 1982, Murphy received a Grammy nomination for a live album of fresh stand-up material called Eddie Murphy: Comedian. The album eventually went gold. That same year, at the age of 21, he also landed his first major motion picture role alongside Nick Nolte in 48 Hours (1982). He approached the role with confidence and ingenuity, convincing director Walter Hill to adjust some of the dialogue to more genuinely depict a black speaker. His charming and inspired performance as the fast-talking convict stole the film, and 48 Hours grossed over $5 million in its first week.
Murphy followed this success with the 1930s style farce Trading Places (1983). Playing alongside fellow SNL alumnus Dan Aykroyd, Murphy's street-wise Billy Ray Valentine becomes the victim, then the victor, of two Wall Street moguls' short-sighted bet. Paramount Pictures proceeded to sign the 23-year-old to a $25 million contract for six pictures.
Murphy's next film, Beverly Hills Cop (1984), hit No. 9 on the list of all-time box-office hits. He played bad boy/good cop Axel Foley, a role originally slated for Sylvester Stallone. His performance was a hit with fans, and earned the actor a Golden Globe nomination. Taking advantage of his status as a hot commodity, Murphy released his first album How Could it Be?, which was produced by music legend Rick James. The first single off the album, "Party All the Time," peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Murphy went on the make Beverly Hills Cop II in 1987, which received mixed reviews from critics, but major rewards from the box office. His other efforts of this period—including The Golden Child (1986) and his directorial debut, Harlem Nights (1989)—were deemed failures by critics and audiences alike.
A highlight of his career during this time was the romantic comedy Coming to America (1988), co-starring Arsenio Hall. In the film, both Murphy and Hall were able to demonstrate their comedic versatilty by playing multiple characters within the film. Audiences loved Murphy's performances and the movie became a box-office smash, grossing more than $128 million in the U.S. alone.
In 1990, Murphy starred in a sequel to his popular film, 48 Hours called Another 48 Hours.
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