So many Goonie-Goo-Goos, so little time.
Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, Adam Sandler, and Russell Brand were among the throng of comedy nerds turned superstars who came out Saturday night to pay homage the man who gave the world Axel Foley, Gumby Dammit!, the Klumps, Jimmy “Thunder” Early, and on and on. Spike TV’s two-hour Eddie Murphy: One Night Only taped Saturday in Beverly Hills (it airs Nov. 14 at 10 p.m. on Spike), and if the carpet-length display of Murphy’s moniker in gold letters wasn’t enough to honor the man, the accolades inside certainly were.
Besides Sandler, Rock, and Brand, the firing squad included Dreamworks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose company is behind Shrek parts 1 through 4. Katzenberg gave a hero’s salute to Donkey, reading some of Murphy’s Shrek dialogue onstage in his monotone delivery, the stark contrast to Murphy’s charismatic delivery demonstrating just how funny Murphy is. There was also Brett Ratner (director of Tower Heist, which starred Murphy), who showed a picture from his bar mitzvah, to which he wore a loud, red leather suit modeled after Murphy’s digs in Delirious. Later, the director donned old-school headphones and rocked Murphy’s version of the white-person dance to Murphy’s ’80s radio hit “Party All the Time.”
Many of Murphy’s costars showed up. Arsenio Hall was there, bringing back memories of Prince Akeem and Semmi from Coming to America. As the two mingled on the carpet before the show, Hall said, “You’re about to get your ass kissed for two hours,” to which Murphy replied, “I would like to see what that feels like before I say no.” Joining Murphy in the audience was Judge Reinhold, who played Murphy’s partner in Beverly Hills Cop and its two sequels. And Murphy’s costar from Life, Martin Lawrence, told him from onstage, “You’ve got a friend for life.”
Then there were video tributes to the funny man’s epic ’80s comedy concerts, Delirious and Raw, and Murphy’s first appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1982. There were no Meet Dave, Best Defense, or A Thousand Words tributes — and only one Adventures of Pluto Nash reference.
Murphy hit the stage himself alongside Stevie Wonder, both wearing sunglasses and nodding their heads side to side while they sang “Higher Ground” with The Roots as house band. Once up there, the question on everyone’s mind was whether Murphy would treat the crowd with a little stand-up. Will the grizzled lion of comedy step up on his perch again for some roars not heard in decades?
Not a chance.
Not even Arsenio Hall, who joined in the theater’s chant of “Eddie! Eddie!,” could coerce Murphy to do it. “Stand-up? I have left that behind many years ago,” he told EW before the show.
That doesn’t mean the night was short on laughs — there were plenty.
Chris Rock’s anecdote about hanging with Murphy’s entourage as a young man got the biggest response of the night: “Here’s my favorite Eddie story. Eddie, me, way before I got famous, Keenen [Ivory Wayans], Arsenio, and 20 black guys at the China Club. A white girl runs up and says, ‘Eddie Murphy, I love you, you’re my favorite of all time. I’ve never kissed a black man before. Please let me kiss you. May I please kiss you?’ Eddie looks at her and goes, ‘You can’t start at the top. You’ve got to kiss one of these broke ni**as first.”
Russell Brand jumped onstage and shared that Murphy had deemed him a “funny m********er” — though the Brit may have misstepped when he waded into Michael Jackson territory. A provocative joke about the late singer’s legal troubles with children drew a wince from Murphy. “Michael Jackson is a genius, and you have to separate their genius from their hobbies,” Brand said. “I’m just saying $20 million is a lot of money to give to a child he didn’t f***.”
In a taped tribute with current Saturday Night Live cast members Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis, and Jay Pharaoh, Sudekis pulled a cool move when he got the “Axel F” theme from Beverly Hills Cop to ring on his phone.
Tracy Morgan popped up rocking the vintage red leather suit, with his belly hanging out Rick Ross style. The 30 Rock star also explained his comedy theory of success in relation to Murphy’s: “Eddie: He’s so funny, he made the prettiest girl in my family laugh so hard, she farted. If you can get the prettiest girl in the front row to fart, you know you’re funny.”
Keenen Ivory Wayans recalled meeting Murphy as the two were telling jokes in New York in the 1970s, while Murphy was 16 and Wayans was 19. “He always had this swag about him. He walked up to me and he goes, ‘What’s up man. I’m Eddie Murphy.’ I was like, ‘Yeah?’ He said, ‘I thought I was the only funny black man in New York, but I guess there are two.”
By night’s end, Murphy addressed the elephant in the room, as all do comedians do: “You know what this is like? You ever have somebody sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to you, but for like two hours? ‘Eddie, you’re so wonderful. Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.’ I am Eddie-d out. I don’t know how you all must feel.’”
After reviewing the past 40 years of laughs, no one seemed to mind a bit.