After “Chappelle’s Show” ended in 2006, Charlie Murphy could have coasted on four words — “I’m Rick James, b—-!” — for the rest of his career. The actor says promoters were offering him $50,000 just to get onstage and repeat that phrase. “I would say, ‘How many shows do you think it’s going to take before I get hit with a pie?’ “ recalls Murphy, 55. Instead, he got serious about his stand-up. You can see how far he’s come at the Howard Theatre.
You started stand-up late, in your 40s. At this point, do you feel like a seasoned pro?
It’s been 12 years and I’ve been around the world three times. I think I’m a very seasoned pro.
You did a tour where you performed in 11 different countries. Where did you go that might surprise people?
Finland. People in Finland don’t really laugh. Let’s say you say something really funny, they’ll give you a round of applause.
How did you react?
I accepted it. They loved the show, that’s how they got down over there. There’s very little laughing, man. They listen, and if it’s funny, they clap — that’s different.
There’s no language barrier for you in foreign countries?
Nah, because the “Chappelle’s Show” wasn’t just a hit here, it was a global hit. Wherever they show it, it’s a hit. The local population responds to it the same way they did here.
Do you feel like you’re still getting better at stand-up?
Oh, absolutely, every day. How many pack it in at 35 or 40 and think they know it all? Your entire life, you’re supposed to be trying to learn.
You worked with Aaron McGruder on his show “The Boondocks” and you’re on his new Adult Swim series “Black Jesus.” Do you two share a comedic sensibility?
Mmm-hmm. That’s why “Black Jesus” is popping off the way it’s popping off, because Aaron was giving me the frame and saying you fill in the blanks. Some of the funniest things — catchphrases and all that — you can go on Twitter after the show goes off, and people are repeating the dialogue. I love that because most of the stuff they’re tweeting is stuff I improvised.
Could you imagine if Twitter had been around during the “Chappelle’s Show” era?
The show would have been even bigger than it was. I had to go on the radio the day after that Rick James sketch aired and talk about the sketch. I’d never heard of someone getting interviewed about a sketch.
You’ll be doing new material in D.C. What can fans expect?
It’s the world through Charlie Murphy’s eyes. I talk about things people have seen and dealt with, but when I put my spin on it, it becomes insane and hilarious.
When was the last time you saw Dave Chappelle?
Recently. We did Radio City Music Hall in New York [together]. It was the best experience of my entire stand-up career.
Did you talk about collaborating?
Not yet, but if something comes up, I’m down. I was happy to get that job [at Radio City]. I did a good job, we had dinner after and I went my way.
Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW; Sat. & Sun., 7 & 9:30 p.m., $30-$35.
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