Charlie Murphy, Eddie’s older brother, has been a working comedian for twenty years, and a busy stand-up comic for six. He’s also appeared in a number of feature films, lending his writing talents to several.
But he became a household name when he joined the cast of “Chappelle’s Show.” Nominated for three Emmy awards, “Chappelle’s Show” soared in ratings when the serial bit, “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” aired, featuring his Rick James and Prince skits.
His star continues to rise, credited mostly to his tireless work. He’s currently writing, producing, and starring in a series of “webisodes” for Sony Entertainment scheduled for release in February. He’s working on a series of commercials for Air Jordan, and will take on an extended tour of Europe. Simon & Schuster is publishing his autobiography, tentatively titled, “The Making of a Stand-Up Guy,” in Aug. 2009.
On a short break before heading to Houston, and then a stint at Richmond Funny Bone, Jan. 8 – 11, Charlie talked to Urban Views Weekly from his family home in New Jersey.
Congratulations on your success. 2009 looks like your biggest year yet.
I’m going to put it like this: All the hard work is starting to pay off. All the waiting – it’s my time.
Any plans for a DVD?
For me, stand-up comedy is like a book. You turn the page. What I mean by that is you put it on tape; so people can enjoy it in their homes on a DVD or whatever. Then it’s on you to begin the process of creating a whole other album or hour, the same way a musician would put an album together, and when they put the album together, they release it. Unfortunately, you can’t create a comedy album or hour in a studio. You have to work in clubs and you build a set. When you finish building a set, you start to fine tune it, and once you get to a certain point where it’s not going to get much better, and before it becomes boring for you, you record it, and you put it out. That’s what I’m doing right now. In March or April, I’ll be finished [with the tour.]
What gave your family such a gift for comedy?
I would say what gave me extra help in comedy is my work ethic. The essentials, the basics, the personality traits, and all that, you get born with that. But that’s not enough to make you a good stand-up comedian. You have to work at it. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever, if he didn’t practice, he wouldn’t be Michael Jordan. Or he might still be famous and known as Michael Jordan, but he wouldn’t be known as the greatest basketball player in the world unless he put a lot of work into it. A lot of hours of practice, a lot of hours of sacrifice are what made him the greatest basketball player of all time.
I’ve been all over the country, all over Canada, and all over Europe. A lot of comedians are afraid to leave their comfort zone. They may be from L.A. and be great in L.A., but they’re afraid to go to New York. I have not allowed myself to be afraid of any audience, including when it came to a language barrier. I said, I’ll find out when I go over there. I found out it’s no problem. It was my arrogance that even [considered] a possibility that they wouldn’t understand. The average American speaks one language. The average European speaks five. So they got the jokes, I’m going back over in 2009. Each time I went, it got bigger. When I go back over again, I’m doing 21 cities, all across Europe.
Did you have a favorite city while there?
My favorite city is home.[laughs] It’s a thrill to go anywhere and be accepted. Connecting with people is fun. So I look forward to going anywhere and giving it a shot. So far I’ve been blessed and fortunate to be able to connect everywhere I went. I took the risk, and as a result, I always grow. Every time you go onstage, you grow to become a better comic. Because I’ve never backed away from any challenge, I’ve been able to make great strides in a short period of time.
Any New Year’s resolutions?
My goal is to maintain the level of quality for my audience. I feel I owe them that, because they spend hard-earned money. These times now are economically depressed times. When somebody spends thirty bucks on me, I feel I owe them, and I want to give you more than your money’s worth. If I spent thirty dollars of my money on something and didn’t get it, I would want to kick some butt for that. I’m far more funny than the bailout.
My goals are to continue what I’ve been doing, which is making it bigger and better. I want to get to the next level. The guys like Chris Rock, Earthquake, D.L. Hughley, Damon Wayans; these guys proved themselves, and are active in the art form. So [I ask myself], what can I do to be mentioned in the same breath? The answer has always been the same: Work hard. You won’t get there unless you go onstage, make the sacrifice, make the commitment, and go for it.
What sacrifices have you had to make? How is your personal life?
My personal life is not the most serene. But, you know, I’m doing okay. My wife has cancer. It’s a sad thing.
It’s funny, when you asked me that, I heard something fall in the background, and I walked in the back, and it’s a book that fell down that’s called The Cancer Conquerer. Maybe I’m supposed to read this book, I guess. My wife has cancer. The family is dealing with that. We’re taking life on life’s terms. We don’t know what God’s plan is for anybody. You wake up in the morning and you put your best foot forward. You try to maintain a positive attitude and to keep it moving. That’s what comedy is to me. It’s my way of being able to bring sunshine to somebody else to forget about their problems. That’s what my job is. It’s a great job.
What can Richmond expect of your show at Funny Bone?
They can expect to laugh. I talk about things that people are thinking about, like the political climate in the country, things that are in the news. I talk about other celebrities, I talk about myself. All of this is done in the spirit of humor.
I just want to add happy holidays to everybody in Richmond. I’ve been there before and I also met one of the funniest guys I’ve come across in years. He’s now part of my crew. His name is J. Farrow and he’s from Richmond. He’s going to be in the show with me. It’s me, J. Farrow, and Freez Love. I’m going to bring the show back to Richmond, and make everybody laugh and have a good time, and keep it moving. That’s what we do.
—by Cesca Janece Waterfield