With Eddie Murphy, you expect raw and you get raw. At Capital Centre last night, Murphy lived up to his reputation and the full house's expectations by racing through 70 minutes of racy material that was familiar, generally if not specifically. Of course, most of that material doesn't bear repetition in a family newspaper except in the most general terms. Murphy was no less scatological than he has been in the past, but somehow he seemed more genial in his assessment of the world, as if his success of the last few years had burned out the anger and left his keen adult comedic instincts intact. It was a night of unforced laughs from both sides of the stage.
The bits that bookended the show were indicative of Murphy's approach. After a lengthy video trailer highlighting favorite characters from his film and television appearances (none of whom reappeared in the program), Murphy evoked the voice of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as it resides in a son with baser instincts. Touchy, perhaps, but funny and a good showcase for his mimicry skills.
At the end of the show, he told a story, possibly apocryphal, about getting a call from Bill Cosby after one of his sons brought home a Murphy concert album. Recreating a quintessential Cosby monologue-as-sermon, Murphy paid a subtle homage to the preeminent comedian of one generation and staked a claim to his own contemporary style and audience. It was a deft maneuver, and a convincing one.
Elsewhere Murphy addressed and invoked Michael Jackson's sexual awakening, Larry Holmes as a cantankerous warrior-pitchman, the social and sexual tensions that abound in the age of AIDS, and independent women whose favorite question is "What have you done for me lately?"
Sex, of course, was a frequent topic, and once again Murphy deftly waltzed between genders, in broad physical makeovers and deeper psychological ones. By cheerleading men into making macho admissions and cajoling women into accepting uncomfortable truths -- and then turning the confession tables and showing how the knife of infidelity cuts both ways -- Murphy managed to convince both groups they were predators and victims alike, and still make it funny. Sexually and racially, he frequently played against stereotypes.
With two big screens positioned above the stage, Murphy's wonderfully expressive features got as much play as his rapid-fire monologues. He shot off on expansive tangents, returning to a point often enough for it to sink in. While there were fewer situational sketches, there were also no meandering asides, and even Murphy's baiting of homosexuals seemed less extreme than in the past. The show, tight, funny and yes, raw, moves to the Washington Convention Center tonight.
Visual comedian Christopher opened with a wonderfully conceived and executed parody of the Jackson Five's synchronicity done with four dummies, two poles and some clever moves, but it went on too long. Mellifluous-voiced Paul Mooney also appeared in a routine whose rude humor was offcolor and offcenter. Some people found him funny, and once or twice, he was.