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Straight talk with comedian Charlie Murphy

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Straight talk with comedian Charlie Murphy
Comedian Charlie Murphy performs a stand-up routine. (Photo: 3000 Eyes Entertainment)

Charlie Murphy — you hear that name and automatically think of the “Chapelle’s Show” skit “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories,” based on his real-life encounters with Rick James and Prince in the 1980s when he worked for his brother Eddie Murphy as his security guard.  Murphy became a household name as a result of his appearances on the critically-acclaimed “Chapelle’s Show” on Comedy Central.

Since his rise to fame, Murphy has gone on to become a successful stand-up comedian and has appeared in movies such as “Lottery Ticket” and “Our Family Wedding” and on the TBS series “Are We There Yet?”  He also voiced the character Ed Wuncler III on the Cartoon Network’s “The Boondocks” and is currently in Los Angeles filming Ashton Kutcher’s prank show, “Who Gets The Last Laugh,” where celebrities prank regular people and a celebrity guest directs each episode. Charlie will direct and star in an upcoming show.

Murphy was at The Wilbur Theatre in Boston last Friday and answered several questions via email about his stand-up career, “Chappelle’s Show,” and who makes him laugh these days.

When I first saw you do stand-up it was with the “I’m Rich B… Tour” with Bill Burr and Donnell Rawlings. How has your comedy evolved since then?

I found my voice. I figured out what I wanted to talk about. When I first started, I was trying to figure out what the audience wanted to hear. Now I tell them what they want to hear. I have more life experiences to draw from as well. I’ve learned to talk about my family, raising my kids as a single dad and the passing of my wife.

Has your brother, Eddie Murphy, ever given you any feedback or advice about your stand-up?

Advice? No. But he pulled my coattail when I was tripping about bombing on a show very early in my stand-up career. I called him like at 3 a.m. one night after a show and told him I bombed. He said, “Who do you think you are?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Richard Pryor bombed. Cosby bombed. Red Foxx bombed. I’ve bombed.” So I’ll ask you again, “Who do you think you are?” That conversation put things into perspective for me.

“Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” was one of the funniest skits on “Chappelle’s Show.” Did you ever think it would have the impact that it did?

When we shot it, I didn’t think it would amount to much. I mean, I knew what we shot was funny but it wasn’t until we shot the wraparounds and I saw the audience’s reaction that I knew we had something special.

You’ve traveled all over the world performing.  How have international audiences received your comedy?

Audiences around the globe receive my comedy just like American audiences [do]. My comedy is universal. We’re all human. Everyone takes a sh*t. I love overseas crowds. They give it up big time. They show a lot of love.

How did your autobiography, “The Making of a Stand-Up Guy,” come about?

Simon and Schuster came to me to do, basically, a “True Hollywood Stories” book. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to tell my story. And of course there were some Hollywood moments revealed, but I didn’t want it to be a book about Eddie or my [celebrity] friends. I wanted people to know me, to understand where I came from and why and how I got to be where I am right now.

You’re known for rocking hats both on and off stage. How many do you own? Would you consider your own line of hats?

Wow. I don’t know. I never counted. Actually, a hat line has come up and we’re looking into a partnership for that.

You’ve been in the entertainment business a long time and have met a lot of celebrities and stars. Is there anyone you’ve met that you were starstruck by?

Starstruck? [President] Obama. I met him in an airport in Chicago. This was when he was still a senator, and he had this presence that was almost regal. I was impressed by him. [I] still am. He’s an incredible role model for young black males and for men in general.

Who makes you laugh?

My brother. Tracy Morgan. Chris Rock. Arsenio [Hall]. Martin [Lawrence], to name a few.

Who do you think are some of the funniest comics doing stand-up today?

There are a lot of funny guys out there and they’re all my friends. Eddie Griffin, Tracy Morgan, Katt Williams, Kevin Hart, Donnell Rawlings — I mean the list goes on and on.

You started doing stand-up when you were 42. Any advice for someone who’s starting out in comedy today?

Stay onstage. If you’re serious about this, you need to get onstage a much as possible. If you want to be good, stay onstage and study some of the greats. Develop your own voice, but know who came before you.

What upcoming projects can we look forward to?

We’re developing some TV show ideas and reading scripts for films. Meanwhile, I’m working on developing my online presence with my YouTube channel — CharlieMurphyTV1 via Shaquille O’Neal’s YouTube channel, Comedy Shaq. Look out for segments like “Charlie Murphy’s Rant” and “The World According To Charlie Murphy.”