You have to give Charlie Murphy credit. When you are the brother of one of the biggest comedians and movie stars to ever walk the earth (that’s Mr. Eddie Murphy to you), living under such an immense shadow can be suffocating. But for Charlie, it was just another challenge to meet head on. The hilariously deadpan writer, who found his voice during a memorable run on the game-changing Chappelle's Show with his uproarious True Hollywood Stories sketches, has since cleared another hurdle: respected standup comedian. VIBE sat down with Charlie to discuss why he was shocked that Prince used his infamous pancake sketch as album art for his newest single, how he looks at his brother and other comedians as the enemy, and why his upcoming standup special will go down as some of his best work.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)
VIBE: When did you first find out that Prince was using your sketch to promote his new single “Breakfast Can Wait”?
Charlie Murphy: It was all over Twitter and Facebook…all over the place. For many years after that came out I thought that Prince didn’t like me because of that sketch. I’ve seen him a couple of times, but then I realized it wasn’t that he disliked me. He just has a different type of energy. I’m very regular when it comes to hanging out with other guys. If you act mysterious around me I want to slap the shit out of you [laughs]. But that’s just Prince; that’s what makes him great. I wanted to mess his hair up and tell him to put some Levis on. But seriously, big up to Prince and much success to his new record. I love all of his music. The fact that he made this record “Breakfast Can Wait” and he merged something that links us all together that…that’s great.
When you, Dave and the crew were filming the Prince sketch, did you realize you were creating something special?
Not at all…not at all. You can’t predict lightening. It happened and people said, “Wow.” It’s kind of like what’s going on with Lee Daniel’s The Butler. I saw Lee up in Maine. My kid’s camp is up there, and he was all laidback. I asked Lee, “Hey man…what are you doing up here?” And he tells me the story of how he just screened his movie for George Bush. And that was the big deal at that time! But when the movie came out and I saw him the very next morning on all the news stations being interviewed that told me that The Butler was huge. Not the fact that Lee screened it for President Bush, but the fact that the general public gave it a thumbs up. That is who your target is…not another artist or politician. It’s about the general public. All this means that I’m a part of something that was a home run, out of the park. We connected in a huge way. I can always be proud of that.
What was the funniest reaction you received from the Prince sketch?
I seen Morris Day [lead singer of the legendary Prince created band the Time] in Atlanta and he didn’t look me in the eye, man. He was talking to me, but he was looking away. It made me feel, “Is he worried that I’m going to do a Morris Day story? Is this what’s going on?” [Laughs] People think that I’m going to write a True Hollywood Story about them and everybody is going to be laughing. Because that wasn’t my intention when I wrote the Prince story.
It’s been over a decade since Chappelle's Show ended. How has your transition to doing standup comedy gone? It has to be a kick to prove people wrong, right?