The Washington Post

Eddie Murphy: Five awesome and largely forgotten career moments for the ‘Tower Heist’ star

Murphy and Steve Martin in the underrated “Bowfinger.” (Zade Rosenthal/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS)

Eddie Murphy seems to be on a journey of career reinvention, one that began with his recent, numerous appearances on various talk shows, continues this weekend with his turn in Brett Ratner’s “Tower Heist” (a film in which Post film critic Ann Hornaday says he returns to “signature form”) and will culminate — if all goes according to plan — with his hosting performance at this year’s Academy Awards.

The rise of Murphy 2.0 has prompted some fond remembrances of his career. When Murphy recently appeared on “The Late Show,” for example, David Letterman devoted an inordinate amount of time to reading his filmography. (For reasons that remain a mystery, Letterman emphasized “Beverly Hills Cop III,” rather than the first or second, superior Axel Foley flicks.)

By now, the highlights of Murphy’s career are well known — “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood,” Buckwheat and Gumby on “Saturday Night Live”; “Trading Places”; the aforementioned “Beverly Hills Cop”; “Coming to America.” But there are some truly amazing accomplishments on Murphy’s resume that some may have forgotten or neglected. Here are five of them. And no, none of them involves “Beverly Hills Cop III.”

Tyrone Greene doing “Kill My Landlord”

For those with vague memories of early ’80s “SNL,” it may be tough to grasp this. But here’s the truth: When he was on the show Eddie Murphy WAS “SNL.” Sure, there were other talented people in the cast (Joe Piscopo and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss among them), but Murphy was the chief reason we all watched. And the number of amazing, memorable sketches he did — including the Velvet Jones School of Technology, James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub Party, as Stevie Wonder, dueting with Frank Sinatra (Piscopo) on “Ebony and Ivory” — during 2 1/2 seasons was pretty astonishing. But here’s one that, while totally un-P.C. by today’s standards, doesn’t get the credit that the Gumby and Buckwheat sketches did — Tyrone Green reciting his epic poem, “Kill My Landlord.”

“Boogie in Your Butt”

Sure, everyone remembers Murphy’s Top 40 hit “Party All the Time.” But do you recall the song “Boogie in Your Butt,” which appeared on his first comedy album — the eponymously titled “Eddie Murphy” — and sounded like it was written by a preschooler? Because really, you should.

Hosting the MTV Video Music Awards in 1985

Murphy has some experience hosting award shows, having handled that role at the second MTV VMAs back in ’85. Not only did he dare to improvise and take cameras into the Radio City Music Hall ladies’ room, he also played the role of emcee while wearing a Cosby-style sweater set. That, my friends, is daring.


In his recently tweeted Oscar advice to Murphy, Steve Martin — who co-starred with Murphy in this 1999 gem, which Martin also wrote — said he sincerely thought Murphy deserved an Academy Award nomination for his work in this comedy. And if the Academy more regularly honored humorous work, he undoubtedly would have. Murphy plays two roles in this Hollywood send-up: one as pompous action star Kit Ramsey and another as dorky Kit lookalike Jiff Ramsey. And he is phenomenal in both, even though few people saw it; unfortunately, “Bowfinger” opened the same weekend as another film that started to build an eensy bit of buzz: “The Sixth Sense.”

His duet with Michael Jackson on “What’s Up With You?”

Most people remember Murphy’s famous performance in Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video. But it’s fair to say fewer people caught this clip, which suggests Jackson and Murphy could and should have co-starred in a buddy comedy. It would have been the weirdest buddy comedy of all time, but it certainly would have been an intriguing viewing experience.

When she isn’t at a movie theater or writing about movies, Jen Chaney is ... um ... probably at home, watching a movie.


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