There was a period of time in the mid-’80s when Eddie Murphy towered over the stand-up comedy landscape like Mount Everest amid the Mahalangur mountain range. His two recorded stand-up performances, Delirious in 1983 and Raw in 1987, were huge, practically defining the genre for a generation of comedy fans. Thirty years later, you still can’t begin a quote from one of those shows without a co-worker finishing it for you. But that was that. The former Saturday Night Live star stepped out of the stand-up spotlight after the curtains closed on Raw, and has since focused his creative energies on acting and (shudder) music.
However, in a recent interview for The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, Murphy revealed that he’s considering a return to the stage and mic stand. “Honestly, now I really am curious about doing it again because it’s been so long, and so much has changed, and I’m such a different person. I’m curious as to what it would be like if I got onstage. But, if I do that, whoever comes to see it has to sit through a bunch of my shitty songs,” he said, hopefully joking. “You’d have to hear my shitty songs between the jokes.”
Murphy told host Scott Feinberg that he didn’t intentionally walk away from stand-up comedy. For a while, he explained, the internet ruined the experience for him, as any jokes he started workshopping would immediately end up being passed around the web. “It was like, ‘Maybe I’ll take a little break from stand-up,’” he recalled. “And then the break just got longer. And then the whole Def Jam thing started with those comedians, and the whole comedy scene just turned into this big other thing. For years I’ve been procrastinating about it, going, ‘I’ll do standup again.’ And all of a sudden I’m this far away from it.”
It would be genuinely fascinating to see what Murphy would do with the form at his age and at this time. Large chunks of his old sets would never be acceptable in the modern media environment. But that probably wouldn’t matter all that much. That cocky 22-year-old kid in the skin-tight red leather suit that took the stage in Delirious seemed like he could have talked about anything and get the audience rolling. The real question is whether that kid can still be summoned up.