Eddie Murphy reflects on navigating dangerous terrain of early fame

In a revealing conversation on the New York Times’ “The Interview” podcast, legendary comedian Eddie Murphy shared a poignant story from his youth that helped shape his career and personal life, per usmagazine.com. At 63, Murphy reflected on a night out with John Belushi and Robin Williams in the 1980s, which solidified his disinterest in drugs—a decision he attributes to a higher power.

Murphy recounted the pivotal moment when he was 19 years old at the Blues Bar. “It was me, [John] Belushi, and Robin Williams. They started doing coke, and I was like, ‘No, I’m cool,’” Murphy shared. He clarified that it wasn’t a moral stance but a lack of interest. “To not have the desire or the curiosity, I’d say that’s providence. God was looking over me in that moment.” This experience, he believes, was crucial in navigating the dangerous terrain of early fame, especially as a young Black artist.

The tragic fates of his companions were not lost on Murphy. Belushi died of a heroin overdose in 1982, while Williams succumbed to depression in 2014. Reflecting on these and other fallen stars like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Prince, Murphy sees them as cautionary tales. “When you get famous really young, especially a Black artist, it’s like living in a minefield. Any moment something could happen that can undo everything,” he explained.

Murphy’s career began its ascent when he joined Saturday Night Live (SNL) in 1980, at a time when the show was struggling. His memorable characters, such as Gumby and Mr. Robinson, helped revive SNL and establish Murphy as a household name. His success continued with blockbuster films like Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. However, despite his achievements, Murphy admitted that he didn’t always appreciate the magnitude of his fame. “I started at maybe around 13, 14, saying that I was going to be famous. I’d tell my mother, ‘When I’m famous…’ So when I got famous, it was like, ‘See, I told you,’” he reminisced.

Murphy described a surreal moment post-48 Hrs. when Marlon Brando expressed a desire to meet him. “Now I look back and go, ‘Wow, that’s crazy, the greatest actor of all time wants to have dinner with you!’ But back then I just thought, ‘Well, that’s the way it is—you make a movie, and Marlon Brando calls.’”

Murphy also opened up about the challenges and racism he faced from the press. A particularly painful memory involved a jibe from David Spade on SNL, which Murphy found both personal and racist. “It was like, ‘Yo, it’s in-house! I’m one of the family, and you’re [expletive] with me like that?’ It hurt my feelings,” he admitted.

Despite the ups and downs, Murphy maintains a deep appreciation for his career and its impact. He understands the influence he’s had on comedians like Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, and Chris Rock, who have followed in his footsteps. “The comic used to be the sidekick… and I changed it to where the comic can be the main attraction. They thought of comics one way, and it was like, no, a comic could sell out the arena, and a comic could be in hundred-million-dollar movies.”

In the end, Murphy views his ability to make people laugh as the greatest blessing of all. “To look around and see that all the good things that came in my life all came from making somebody laugh? That’s a beautiful feeling, man,” he concluded.


  • Featured image: Eddie Murphy

Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Niche Imports


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