The point of some videos is clearer than others. Oh, look. It's puppies! In this video, Charlie Murphy wants everyone to know that for him, there is "Life after Grambling State University," which is good news for young people enrolling at Grambling? Oh. Ohhhh. This isn't about them at all. This is about how Charlie Murphy wants them to know that other audiences love him. Especially since Murphy bombed at Grambling last month. See how the audiences clap and applaud for him? See how Sharon keeps winning the Olympics? But who is Sharon? How did she win the Olympics? So many questions.
Every comedian has a story about a hell gig, and after last night, Charlie Murphy has a new tale to tell.
To say his headlining performance at Wednesday night's homecoming comedy show for Grambling State University did not go well is an understatement, but doesn't need to be stated, because it's on video. The Gramblinite reported that the student body welcomed Murphy to the stage, after two opening acts, with a standing ovation, but after he asked the students to get their Chappelle's Show references out of their system, things did not go well from there. "As he delved into trippy terrain, the audience tripped out on him. Stray boos echoed," they reported.
By the time this student took out a camera to record Murphy's performance on video, the crowd was at times deathly quiet, then nervously chattering, and then more boos. Watch what happens next...
Yes, that's right. Charlie Murphy, staring straight into the abyss of a show gone wrong, asked to have his $22,000 check presented to him, tossed it to the floor, and with the finality of a "fuck you," left the stage. Show over.
Here's how he followed up with his followers on Twitter:
And two hours ago, he added this Tweet @cmurphycomedy: "GSU has the most intelligent Black People in the nation. Can't wait till you run the world."
Did you know that Eddie Murphy was a guest last night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno? I know, I know. Perhaps you don't think that's an exciting thing worth tuning in to see in 2010. But the chat segment last night yielded some interesting fruit for comedy fans.
For one thing, Murphy, now 49, told Leno that he has been writing new jokes and is itching to return to stand-up -- something he hasn't really done in more than two decades. Murphy is one of those stand-up superstars who, when he became a big box-office movie star, focused more on that and other interests and dropped the stand-up entirely. He has put out more music albums than comedy product since his 1987 stand-up concert film, Eddie Murphy: Raw. In recent years, his older brother Charlie Murphy has launched his own stand-up career and been the more visible fixture in that regard. So there's that. Though being subdued for most of his panel session with Leno last night, Eddie Murphy did show the audience that he still remembers how to impersonate Bill Cosby.
And that prompted another interesting nugget, as Leno talked about a rare, possibly out-of-print album that Cosby had recorded called "After Hours" that contained more adult subject matter than the standard Cosby stories. Cos apparently recorded that at the old Village Gate in NYC, a site now known as Le Poisson Rouge. If any of you have a copy of it (it's not on iTunes or Amazon), please let me know.
Here's the clip. The second half gets into plugging the new 3-D Shrek film, and Murphy jokingly suggests that when he dies, there'll be a picture of him as Donkey on the obit. If that's not enough detachment, he also jokes about trying to date, and how he only just now got his first cell phone because he's a complete technophobe. Wow. Roll it!
Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly said writer/director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) was shopping his own script with Eddie Murphy set to star in Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?, while HitFlix went further to say it had been shopped to Fox Searchlight with a $25 million budget. Condon helped Murphy get an Oscar nomination in Dreamgirls, and Murphy used to impersonate Pryor in his young stand-up act, so you'd think this would be a solid choice. Roll the NSFW clip:
And here is a classic clip from Richard Pryor (also NSFW) about going to prison in Arizona:
Then again. Two things.
1) Eddie Murphy is such a star himself, that despite the impersonation, I'll be curious to see how he slips into the role and life of the groundbreaking Pryor without reminding us that he is Eddie Murphy. In Dreamgirls, he was playing off of his James Brown/SNL riffs without having to play the actual James Brown, so it was a little easier to follow. Yes, yes, Jamie Foxx won an Oscar playing his Ray Charles. It is possible. And in a more of an apples-to-apples comparison, Jim Carrey pulled off Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. But I sometimes watch Eddie's brother, Charlie Murphy, and find myself thinking about Eddie. I'm not the only one who does that, right?
2) Which leads me to a previous attempt at a Richard Pryor biopic. Just a few years ago, comedian Mike Epps was telling MTV News that he would play Pryor, saying in 2005 he was personally auditioning for the family. In December 2006, Epps said a family fight over the late comedian's assets had delayed the project, along with a desire to rewrite the script with material from Pryor's daughter, Rain. Pryor and wife, Jennifer Lee Pryor, had been producing that project, and Jennifer had told Variety back in May 2005 that they originally had thought of Damon Wayans for the role, but reconsidered. "The material is larger than life, and you need someone to fit into it who's not extraordinarily famous or else it would be like Al Jolson playing Malcolm X," she said. "Richard and I saw Mike's standup, and there is a dangerous edge, a Richard-esque quality about him." Pryor died in December 2005.
Naturally, then, I wonder what the family thinks of this latest development.
When Kevin James went to bed last night, he knew his reign as king of the box office had ended, with Taken dislodging Paul Blart: Mall Cop from the top of the charts. But the King of Queens star still took a victory lap on his character's signature Segway on Super Bowl Sunday, enjoying the ride as he talked up the movie during NBC's pregame coverage and saw the studio roll out new ads touting Blart as America's first blockbuster of 2009. Ah, Hollywood hyperbole. In two weeks and three weekends, the movie so far has grossed north of $83 million.
There are many things funnier than Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but perhaps none funnier than watching critics, journalists and bloggers fall all over themselves trying to make sense of the film's popularity. The Los Angeles Times said the movie "was underestimated"...by whom? EW's PopWatch blog asked if James was ready for meatier roles, so to speak. New York's Vulture blog, meanwhile, tried to coin "Blart" as an adjective for an entire genre of film. And the AP tried dissecting the film's appeal. As if it were all a big secret. Spoiler alert! It's not a secret. Though the film is kind of a mess, particularly the first half, once the action sequences start, it's a broad slapstick take on action heroes, with James nimbly fulfilling the fantasies of all of The Biggest Losers in America. Simply put, perhaps James should have switched TV titles with his longtime comedy buddy Ray Romano because Everybody Loves Kevin. And Kevin James loves his fellow comedians, and especially his brother.
For more than 200 episodes of King of Queens on CBS (and continuing in syndication), James shared his stage with comedians who dropped by for short stints and for long-running characters, most notably Jerry Stiller and Patton Oswalt, but also Nicole Sullivan, Jimmy Shubert, Eddie Pepitone, Adam Ferrara, Jackie Flynn and James's brother, Gary Valentine. Ferrara, Flynn and Valentine also got parts in Blart. And Valentine previously scored a role supporting James in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.
Brotherly love in show business is a rare breed in the world of stand-up comedy. Certainly, there have been plenty of brothers in comedy (Marx, Smothers, Murray, Wayans, Farley, Sklar), but they either stuck together as acts or worked separately in TV and film projects. Eddie Murphy's brother, Charlie Murphy, dove into stand-up comedy only once Eddie had left the stage. Chris Rock and brother Tony Rock both tour comedy clubs and theaters, but they appear to work on their projects individually. Gallagher famously got into a family fight and lawsuit with his brother after he toured as Gallagher Too. Rising comedian Mike Birbiglia's brother assists him in writing and shaping his material. Perhaps the only example I can think of, though, wherein two brothers in stand-up comedy actively helped each other's career on the road is Brian Regan and his brother Dennis. The two Regans toured clubs together for years, with Dennis opening for his more famous brother, Brian. More recently, Dennis Regan also had worked as a writer and story editor for...King of Queens.
Before I get to recapping the year in comedy, circa 2007, let's look back at some of my more illuminating, insightful and interesting comedy interviews from the year.
My sit-down with Ricky Gervais has to take the top spot in my mind, because his strongly held opinions on sticking to your creative guns and not sacrificing your beliefs in your own sense of humor (and humour) are words that any creative artists -- whether they're comedians, musicians, writers or actors -- can live by.
A close second, then, has to have been my September face-to-face with Dane Cook. Arguably the biggest headliner in the country this year and last, in terms of tickets and CDs sold, Cook met me in a Manhattan hotel lounge as part of his promotional tour for Good Luck Chuck. But we barely talked about the movie, instead tackling every question you've probably wanted to hear Cook answer, and then some. He even brought up Louis CK!
Speaking of whom, Louis CK was just one of the many other bright lights of comedy I got to talk to at length in 2007 -- the others included Nick Swardson, Christian Finnegan, Jim Gaffigan, Michael Ian Black, Eddie Brill, Bob Saget, Artie Lange, Doug Benson, Damon Wayans, Charlie Murphy, Frank Caliendo and Tim Minchin. Of course, there were hundreds of other comedians I got to witness and talk to this past year, and hopefully, I'll get to tell you more about all of them in 2008.
Charlie Murphy started doing stand-up comedy about 20 years after his younger brother, Eddie. Perhaps you've heard of him. Eddie tasted superstardom success at an early age. For older brother Charlie, now 48, he's just getting his taste of it, post-Chappelle's Show (Murphy performs Friday-Saturday at Carolines as part of the New York Comedy Festival). And he thinks he's the better for it.
"Definitely. I'm in love with the game of standup. I've got an audience of people listening to me. That's the best job in the world," he told me over the phone while driving on Interstate 80. "When you're younger, you got less repsonsibility, and you're more subject to peril, if you don't have a strong support group around you. Because there's wovles out there. When you're older, you see all this s--t going down but you're too old to participate. You don't have the recovery time!...Patron and s--t. No, man I can't do that."
He's more than happy to participate in this week's festival, considering what Caroline Hirsch and company have done to help him out. "Carolines has given me a lot of love over the years, so I've got to give some love back," he said. "Whatever they want from Charlie Murphy, they can have it. They even let me go onstage when I had no act."
No act? Really? What was that like?
"Very nervewracking," he said. "I had no act. I had zero. They said we want you to find something about yourself. Do not try to be funny. Do not try to crack a joke. Just go up there and talk about things like you'd talk to us. All the funny stuff came later, the punchlines, the callbacks and all of that."
Just then, a thought distracts him. "I smell pancake syrup in my car?! I went to the Outhouse of Pancakes this morning, but I didn't have pancakes, man! I keep smelling syrup."
Thankfully, his driving distractions usually serve up his best material. "The best time is soon as you wake up in the morning. When I wake up, I don't brush my teeth, I get in the car and get away from everyone, get in the car and drive off. Stuff pops up. Bing! Bing! And I write it down, then I talk to my homeys, start working it out."
What has the Internet done for comedy? "The Internet has made a lot of people famous," he said. "I didn't take advantage of the Internet like I should've. I have a MySpace and charliemurphy.com, but all of that is this year. There are people who have big friendship places on the Internet, when theygo on the road, they hit download and boom it's sold out. Pablo Francisco sold out 10,000 seats in Sweden. How'd he do that? He put his show on the Internet. He was on there beforehand so people could see him." You can see Murphy online. He claims his material online has gotten "2.5 million hits, and I get nothing from that."
Sounds like the Writers Guild strike. But that's another blog post.
You can also see Murphy in the upcoming movie, The Perfect Holiday, which opens Dec. 12.
Denis Leary's view on the holidays ain't so jolly. Go figure.
A couple of weeks ago, Leary, his band and his 15-year-old son, Jack, performed the actor/comedian's song, "Merry F#%$in' Christmas" as the finale at Cam Neely's Comics Come Home benefit. But it looks and sounds much more subversive when it opens "Denis Leary's Merry F#%$in' Christmas" special Nov. 27 on Comedy Central.
"Live, it's more of a jaunty singalong," Leary told me this week over the phone on a break from voiceover work on Ice Age 2. If by jaunty, you mean an opening verse such as, "Old Saint Nick's got bourbon breath, it's so cold you could catch your death, a cop sold me some crystal meth, it's a merry, f#%$in' Christmas."
"Really, we're just going for the ultimate anti-Christmas song," Leary said. "Then I thought, this is really going to have a great animated video for it. That was the seed for the idea that led to the Christmas special." Cue the claymation! "It's a throwback to Rankin-Bass and all that stuff we know from growing up." Leary said Comedy Central will "bleep" one version of his special, then air the uncensored version sometime later at night (part of what the network calls it's after-midnight Secret Stash series).
How they'll bleep it is another matter. Some skits involve William Shatner, Charlie Murphy, Chris Elliott and the Barenaked Ladies. Leary also pokes fun at Tom Cruise, FEMA and Paris Hilton. "We weren't setting out to make a timeless special. If you wanted something that was evergreen, you couldn't be as funny," he said. "Although I think 'It's Jihad Time, Farley Towne' is timeless." Yes, that is a Peanuts spoof.
Any worries about taking on Tom Cruise, who's known to sue? "I had a big fight with Viacom and Comedy Central," Leary said. "They didn't want Tom Cruise to sue me. It's comedy. If you're not pissing people off, you're not doing your job." So he skewers both Scientology and Catholicism at the same time. "We carry on this stupid tradition with kids, and it's really the beginning, the tradition is deception," he said. Leary's son, Jack, makes a cameo during the special's musical finale, but he doesn't perform. "He said, 'Is it funnier if I act like I'm bored and couldn't care less?' I said, 'You mean like in real life?'" Leary said.
The Learys are hosting many relatives from Massachusetts and even Ireland this weekend for Thanksgiving, so he feels your pain. "Once your family leaves on Sunday, or you leave your family, you'll need a good hearty hour of laughs to get it out of your system," he said. "And it'll also get you in the right mood for Christmas."
Related: The show's Comedy Central site.
Here's a sketch with Bobby Tisdale on the mic: