Friday, February 6, 2009

Siskel & Ebert on ‘Eddie Murphy Raw’

When Chris Rock broke through with his 1996 HBO special “Bring the Pain,” it made me reappraise Eddie Murphy as a standup comedian. Because, let’s face it... Eddie wasn’t really saying much.

He is a gifted actor and a Hall-of-Fame sketch comic. But “Eddie Murphy Raw” – hot as that movie was in 1988 – is about Eddie Murphy ego-tripping and indulging his contempt for various and sundry targets.

It lacks the courageous self-scrutiny of Richard Pryor’s best material (and the political sophistication of even Rock’s weakest).

Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel disagreed along these lines when they reviewed the film. They disagreed quite strongly, in fact.


zinjanthropus said...

Murphu was only 22 when this was filmed. How many 22 year old people with talent, also have very many astute observations? He was using his immense popularity to take mental stabs at unsuspecting groups of people, some of whom needed it no matter how juvenile murphy's delivery.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Murphy was 26 when "Raw" was filmed.

Chris Rock was 31 when he made "Bring the Pain."

DeAngelo Starnes said...

I read once where Eddie said he would not do stand-up anymore because he was afraid his stuff wouldn't compare to other comics (paraphrase).

I disagree. He didn't have anything to say at 26, but after all the shit he's been through, I would love to see if he can impart that Richard Pryor self-therapy on stage. It would be fascinating if he could because I think with his talent he could pull it off.

He's not going to be as political as Rock, but I think he can be very funny.

Otherwise, I agree with your assessment of Raw, Dave.

I recall liking Eddie in the early days because we were essentially the same age and he was talking that just out of high school shit while sounding, in diction only, like Pryor.

The Obenson Report said...

I remember not being allowed to watch this when it was released. The language was too raw for my ears apparently - according to my parents anyway.

I did eventually see it, a few years later; but I was still young enough that if my parents knew I had seen it, they would have given me a few lashes.

I haven't seen it since then, so I barely remember it, except for clips I've seen here and there, courtesy of YouTube.

I recall the euphoria I felt watching it initially; but it was probably due more to the fact that I was doing something forbidden, than because I was genuinely interested in the content.

Seeing clips of it today, I just grin and shrug. You're right, he wasn't saying much. But I don't know if I ever really thought of Eddie as anything but an entertainer in the purest sense; so I got what I expected out of him.

I recall reading an article years ago written by August Wilson in which he expressed some disappointment in Eddie, who was once interested in adapting Wilson's "Fences" for the big screen. Wilson insisted on a black director for the project, but Eddie didn't/couldn't quite understand Wilson's reasons, and didn't seem to care.

I like what DeAngelo said above about an older, wiser, even dare I say "Blacker" Eddie Murphy taking center-stage again, and telling some new jokes. I'd like to think that we would see a different brand of humor altogether.

Undercover Black Man said...

It would be fascinating if he could because I think with his talent he could pull it off.

Indeed, DeAng. If only he had the heart to do it... to find the laughter in his own human weaknesses.

Undercover Black Man said...

Seeing clips of it today, I just grin and shrug.

Part of what intensified the experience for black Americans at the time, Tambay, was that 1988 was such a great year for black culture. Spike Lee put out "School Daze" that February. "Sign o' the Times" was still ringing like a bell. Jesse was running for president again... and rocking. Arsenio Hall had funked up late-night TV for 13 weeks in late '87.

Not to mention the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.

Eddie felt like part of a larger renaissance.

Alas, hindsight can be harsh. And time has proven Gene Siskel wrong on this one.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Starnes, I doubt that Mr. Murphy has the motivation to 'go there'. Not that I would blame him. It seems that he has an entertaining steaming pile of you know what simmering beneath the veneer. With his wealth and current status as a performer why take the risk? Slashing a vein publicly would certainly pay of if he were to hit bottom and need the cash. Otherwise I do not envision Mr. Murphy hitting the stage anytime soon.

bklyn6 said...

Slashing a vein publicly would certainly pay of if he were to hit bottom and need the cash.

Yeah, maybe a little self-deprecating humor about getting busted with trannies might do the trick.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to Eddie, he did say that he had just went through a breakup before filming Raw, but his stand up with Raw and Delirious (which I liked better than Raw) doesn’t rise to Chris Rock or Richard Pryor’s level.