For comedian Eddie Murphy, the difference between "Saturday Night Live" and Sunday Night Live was characters. Raheem Abdul Mohammed, Buckwheat, Gumby and Little Richard Simmons all stayed home in New York while Murphy brought himself and a few impressions to the sold-out Bayou last night. Over the course of a 70-minute show that frequently lagged with rambling asides and missed punches at convenient dummies in the audience, Murphy did flash the exuberant charm and genial hostility that have made him the hottest new star in comedy. But he also emphasized some Richard Pryor-ities that seemed affected.
Like Pryor, Murphy has a mimic's ear, a mime's eye and a magician's sense of misdirection, so when his stories connect, they connect hard: in an extended bit about having to listen to a drunken father's middle-of-the-night ramblings or the merciless sketch of a pair of macho bystanders at an accident ("Them your lips over there?"), Murphy proved to be a compelling storyteller. But wonderful impressions of Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby and Leon Spinks floundered in unresolved bits and the incessant references to bodily functions and sexual/racial stereotypes seem dull and derivative in 1982.
Still, with some delightful physical movements and occasionally inspired digs at fans, ghosts and the Klan, Murphy proved to be a winning and charismatic presence who simply needs to develop the material to match his wits.