Charlie Murphy, the older brother of Eddie Murphy, will perform two stand-up shows on Saturday, April 25, 2009 at the Comedy Connection at the Wilbur Theatre. (Photo courtesy of www.myspace.com/charliemurphycomedy)
Anyone with a popular, successful older brother knows that it can be pretty annoying to always be compared to him. But in recent years, Charlie Murphy — brother of Eddie Murphy, one of the most famous and highest-grossing comedians and actors of all time — has more than stepped out of his sibling’s oversized shadow, staking his own claim in the comedy world as a regular on the history-making sketch series “Chappelle’s Show,” and making appearances in movies, on TV and all over the Internet.
The Banner recently caught up with Charlie Murphy, who will be filming a stand-up comedy special here in Boston on Saturday night, April 25, at the new Comedy Connection at the Wilbur Theatre. He talked about his past trips to the Hub, the differences between comedy and the military, the influence of the Internet on his career and much more.
This is not your first time coming to Boston. What’s your impression of Beantown, and what are you looking forward to when you return?
Not my first time at all. Every time I came to Boston, I had fun. Boston, Chicopee, that whole area … it’s a comedy town. A lot of good comics have come from up there. The people are used to going to clubs to watch comedy. It’s a part of their culture. It’s a good place to work.
In the past when you performed in Boston, you had comedians on the show with you, so it seemed like more of a package. Is that the case with your performance on April 25?
Nah, I got my own show. I do have Freeze Luv (comedian Paul Farmer) and another comedian who will be opening the show, but it’s going to be me.
A lot of people may not realize that you are an actor, writer and producer. But stand-up is a different beast entirely. How long have you been doing stand-up comedy?
Knowing what you know now, based on the experiences you’ve had over the past six years, is there anything you would have done differently in your first years?
No … I mean, you can’t expect this to be something you develop overnight. A part of the journey is picking up new information and skills from the experience. There is nothing, as a part of stand-up, that I would look at and/or do differently. Whether it was a good or a bad experience, I learned from it. And I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity in those six years to not only do stand-up in the U.S., but I’ve performed all over Europe, all over Canada. … To me, that’s a tremendous blessing because a lot of comedians don’t get a chance to leave their town, much less to go all over the world doing stand-up comedy.
Performing in such a variety of places, with the cultural differences and languages, did you find yourself having to change up your material?
No, no, no … The point I’m trying to make is: Charlie Murphy works … all over the world. With everyone. I relate to and do comedy for anyone. And that was proven by me being able to go on the road, and do comedy all over the world, and have success. I didn’t alter my show, leave stuff out or try to censor … or anything like that. It was me. I do what I normally do when I show up. And it was good enough for whoever I was in front of. And I feel extremely humbled and blessed by that.
I saw that you served our country for some years in the Navy.
Yeah, yeah … I served for six years in the Navy.
What was your duty and/or rank?
I was a manager E5, and worked in a boiler room. I was a “boiler technician.” I don’t even think they have that rank/position anymore, because I don’t think the ships run by steam boilers. And that is a job that I don’t recommend for anybody.
What is a “boiler technician”? What does a “boiler technician” do?
(laughs) Exactly. Why is the word “technician” attached to the word “boiler”? That’s the question. And when do you become a technician, know what I mean? And they had me caught up in the trick bag. [Navy recruitment] had me believing, “I’m going to become an engineer.” And I ended up working in these real hot rooms, with these real hot boilers, taking temperature readings off boilers, fixing valves … [It was] like working in a hot bathroom. It was a rough job, man.
Six years in the Navy. Six years doing stand-up comedy. Would say that comedy or the Navy has taken you to more places?
Navy. Wait, you know what … comedy. In the Navy, we went to the same places. I was stationed in Charleston, S.C., and when I went to Europe, I went to Portugal, Spain, Turkey, France. Now, on the road, [I’ve gone to] … Stockholm, Copenhagen, Denmark, Finland … you know, London — getting ready to go back there — Norway, Australia, Iceland … So yeah, I have gone more places with the comedy. And it’s getting bigger. It’s not getting smaller, it’s getting bigger. …
I can go to the places because people … mainly because of YouTube, people can download [clips of me]. It’s not like you’ve got to wait for a network to put Charlie Murphy on a [TV] show in order for you to like him. Now you can go to YouTube. I’ve got, like, 21 pages of video, you know. People from all over the world can download and see Charlie Murphy. They see clips from “Chappelle’s Show.” They can see clips from my new show on http://www.crackle.com, which is called “Charlie Murphy’s Comedy Crash.” They see that. They judge me for themselves, instantly. And that is what had opened doors for me to go to these places all over the world, man.
You mentioned Crackle.com, which is a multi-platform Web television network and studio, administrated by Sony Pictures Entertainment. You started your first season of episodes there in March. Talk a little more about the show, its purpose and why people should check the show out.
[There are going to be] 10 episodes [this season]. The purpose of it is to be able to download quick episodes to your phone, iPod … or, if you want, sit down on your own computer and get a quick laugh in. These are all quick sketch comedy vignettes. They all last … like three minutes. I think the longest one is about 4:20. So you get a quick “ha ha ha” and keep it moving.
And it’s also an opportunity to show that I can produce and write myself, with [the audience] not thinking that there is someone else who is responsible for it. This is all written and produced by me. And I invite you to check it out and tell me what you think. You can blog on it and give your opinion, all that.
Stand-up comedy, TV, YouTube and webisodes, plus you have a lot of movies under your belt already … Let me ask you this, which do you enjoy more? Acting in movies and television or stand-up?
I would have to say stand-up, because that’s the one that I’m more active in. The stand-up thing is not like the movies and TV and all that. [That’s] like … OK, you know you’re an actor.
You keep your skills real sharp on the stage doing stand-up. But for the most part, it’s not like your being booked on some weekly [TV] show or your being booked in a movie is guaranteed every year. But I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been doing movies, TV spots, [and] voice-overs, and I’ve been doing my stand-up consistently.
And the stand-up is my foundation for all those other things, because when I go into do a voice-over, or go into an audition for a role in a movie, it’s not like I’ve been sitting around waiting since the last audition. I’ve been exercising my creative muscle. I’ve been on the road. I’ve been on the stage. I’ve been coming up with new stuff. And that just gives you a new personality and a whole new confidence — when you go in to do these other things, it comes out better.
What made you choose Boston as the location to shoot your stand-up comedy DVD?
Because when I first started doing stand-up, the first year, when I was super duper green, I had a good run. I mean, [I] didn’t have [any] bad experiences anywhere. But then, there were those places where the experience was extremely, outstandingly good. And Boston was one of those places.
You can’t be a good comedian your first year. Let’s keep it real. You may have been an eager comedian. You may have been a talented comedian. That doesn’t mean you were a good comedian. … Your voice wasn’t developed yet. [Boston] was one of the places where I got my first taste for like, “Yo, there’s a huge room full of people who are going crazy for me. And they’re making me feel it.” You know what I’m saying? So that’s why I said that [Boston is] where I want to [film] my show.
Charlie Murphy will be performing two shows on Saturday, April 25, 2009, at 7 p.m. and 9:45 p.m., at the Comedy Connection at the Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont Street, Boston. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.thewilburtheatre.com.
Corey Manning is a stand-up comedian by night, a super hero by day, and a freelance writer when he has the time. Check him out at http://www.coreymanning.com.