The comedy world lost an unsung hero Wednesday. A man who could very well be the most underrated comedian of all time — Charlie Murphy.
Charlie was the lesser-known, outside-the-spotlight brother of famed comedian Eddie Murphy. Eddie broke onto the scene as a young, hip, raunchy “Richard Pryor for the next generation.” After the success of his stand up specials “Delirious” and “Raw,” Eddie hit the big screen with classics like Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America and more, before moving into the family-friendly realm with Dr. Doolittle.
But through all this time, Charlie was there too. Not nearly as many people knew his name or saw his face, but he was part of one of the most defining programs in comedy — and I don’t think it could have happened without him.
Charlie Murphy was a staple of Chappelle’s Show, and one of its most quotable figures.
While Dave Chappelle was always at the forefront — and is a comedic genius — Charlie Murphy stood out with his iconic voice and storytelling ability.
Part of his storytelling ability simply stemmed from the fact that he and Eddie had known many famous people and had a lot of great stories to tell, but it was more than that. Charlie Murphy told the truth. Whether or not everything he said in Chappelle’s Show skits about meeting Prince or Rick James was true, audiences believed it was.
He presented everything so matter-of-fact that it had to be true. Who on Earth could make these stories up?
Another factor which made the stories seem so real, was Charlie’s ability to show you what the world was really like. He was never the hero, he was never immune to fads or trends he made fun of. During his True Hollywood Stories segment about Prince, he says at the time the guy who looked the most like a woman at the club attracted all the women, but he then says “even I had the Jheri curl grown out with the sides slicked back.”
Charlie told it like it was. He showed that he was human, ordinary, but had very extraordinary experiences.
I don’t think Chappelle’s Show would have been nearly as successful or iconic without Charlie Murphy. True Hollywood Stories are possibly the most popular skits to come out of the series, and Charlie’s influence can be found in many other timeless sketches through his portrayal of many different characters.
Charlie was also a writer and actor beyond Chappelle’s Show. He wrote Paper Soldiers — one of Kevin Hart’s first films — and Vampire in Brooklyn. He saw the big screen in Harlem Nights, CB4, Mo’ Betta Blues and several other films.
Charlie Murphy was the king of keeping it real. That’s what it all comes down to. He was always real. What folks saw is what they got. And every story he told, every role he portrayed, every joke he delivered, was done so with a calm authority, which no one dared to question.
So rest in peace, Charlie Murphy. Rick James is probably already grinding his feet on your heavenly couch, and Prince is certainly ready for a game of one-on-one.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.