Dir: Robert Townsend, 1987
Eddie Murphy’s stand up career, is often forgotten about in light of his recent box office takings. But, there was a time when he was king of the stand up.
Taking inspiration from his comedy hero, Richard Pryor, Murphy dominated the stages of America throughout the eighties.
A smash on Saturday Night Live, Murphy’s HBO stand up special, Delirious, allowed viewers to see the talent that the 48 HRS star held and was a major factor in his success.
Now a mega movie star, Murphy melded his two careers and made a film out of his one man comedy show, for cinema exhibition.
Eddie Murphy Raw starts with a sketch, depicting a young Murphy and his penchant for telling jokes and swearing (featuring a pre-famous Samuel L. Jackson and Tatyana Ali).After that, it’s on to the show.
Regardless of how people see the actor these days, the one thing cannot be denied is that Murphy has given a leg up for black actors. Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson and Cuba Gooding. Jr, are just a few off the names that have appeared in an Eddie Murphy movie and reached A-list status.
Rarely has a movie been so aptly titled, as raw is, definitely, what Murphy is. From the usual black vs white people comedy, that is so popular among black US comics, there is the caustic humour and acidic barbs that made Delirious a true classic.
However, this is 1987 and attitudes have changed. Many of the jokes would have battered few eyelids, but in these more enlightened times, they are likely to incur the wrath of the righteous politically correct brigade.
The stand up comic’s jibes at homosexual’s, complete with effete voice and mannerisms, are purely stereotypes of a gay man. His use of the word “faggot/s” and “fag/s”, will cause consternation to the unsuspecting spectator, especially those who found his body of work through films such as The Haunted Mansion and Dr. Doolittle.
But, rather than cause an uncomfortable feeling of offense, you find yourself laughing along. You’re not laughing at gay people with a self induced sense of superiority. You’re laughing at the absurdity of what Murphy’s saying. It’s his delivery of the material. He isn’t demanding you to hate gays, or instill fear and cause harm. He’s simply telling a joke. Black people are referred to as “niggers”. Does that mean that he hates blacks, even though he’s black himself? Is he a man, ashamed of his colour? A self-hating black guy? No, of course not. He’s, simply, trying to make the audience laugh with his humour and impressions. There is no malice to any of it.
Eddie Murphy’s Raw is offensive in every way imaginable. Whether it’s an attitude of slight misogyny or the 223 uses of “fuck” and it’s derivatives, the film is a ninety minute stream of offense.
Eddie Murphy has a unique ability for telling jokes, that many other American comedians don’t possess. His humour is, very much, universal and you can relate to his anecdotes.
However, after forty odd minutes, things start to wane and the movie becomes a chore. Delirious never had that problem, with it running for little over an hour.
Eddie Murphy Raw is a fun and often hilarious film, that perfectly captures the man while still at the top of his game.