Comedian Chris Rock once described Charlie Murphy's stand-up as “Eddie Murphy on crack.” But the elder brother of the Murphy clan has honed his skills as a comedian and entertainer since that less-than-charitable assertion was made years ago.
Murphy's now a stand-up veteran and household name, thanks to the widely popular and short-lived “Chappelle Show” on Comedy Central. Murphy is remembered for appearing as himself in the sketch “Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories,” which re-enacted his hilarious and humiliating encounters with Prince and Rick James in the 1980s. Since then he's hosted a show for BET (“We Got to Do Better”) and resumed his film career, appearing in “Roll Bounce” and “The Perfect Holiday.” He's also working on a book about his life and is slated to play Michael Jordan's disgruntled mentor, Leroy Smith, in a series of commercials for Nike.
Style: People are familiar with the characters you've played, but maybe not your stand-up. What's your performance like?
Charlie Murphy: It's funny, that's what it's like. A lot of people aren't [aware of my stand-up career], but a lot of people are. The main reason behind that is that I haven't put a DVD out. I've been all over the world. I'm a hard-working dude, man. My brother is Eddie Murphy, I know what he means to the art form of comedy. It worked out to my advantage because I was able to live up to it.
Are there more true Hollywood stories to be told?
I think the best one is going to be my story. The guy at Simon & Schuster said, “So we need more Prince stories and more Rick James stories.” I didn't hang out with Prince and I didn't hang out with Rick James. I don't have a book full of stories about Rick James. That was it. Don't confuse me with Latoya Jackson. I'm not a snitch. I'm not makin' up shit.
Tell me about your book, “The Making of a Stand-up Guy.”
If I don't tell my story somebody else is going to tell it and it ain't gonna be accurate. It's basically my life since birth. I've had a pretty remarkable life.
Do you ever bump into Dave Chappelle?
Don't get me wrong, I don't really have time to be worryin' about bumpin' into Dave. I'm not lookin' for Dave. I'm doin' me. I'm just happy that I was able to continue on from there.
Tell me about the Nike ad campaign.
That's the crown jewel of all the stuff I've done since the Chappelle show. … I can't wait to do them.
What's the story with Leroy Smith, the character you portray?
He went to school with Michael Jordan, was better than Michael Jordan, taught Michael Jordan all of his tricks, gave his swagger and his will. Now he's grown bitter. A middle-age gentleman that has all this basketball talent and was never accepted in the NBA.
How much of your performances on-screen are improvised?
Practically all of it. Improvisation, that's one of my strengths now. Everybody is not quick like that. I am, so I use it.
What do you remember about your previous visit to Richmond?
Everybody was wearin' Gucci! Is there a Gucci factory in Richmond? They really like Gucci in Richmond. The people there are fun, we had a good time and everything. That stood out!
Anything else you want to add?
I'm coming to Richmond and we're gonna have some fun. Wear your Gucci, I'll wear mine. We're gonna have a Gucci good time! S
Charlie Murphy comes to the Funny Bone Jan. 8-11. Tickets are $27. Call 521-8900 or visit www.richmondfunnybone.com.