Imagine, just for a moment, that it’s still the Dog Days of Summer.  Now imagine that you’re still a kid, playing outside.  (Um, yeah, I just said “playing outside”, so you may also need to imagine that this is back in the days before there was the Wii—or Facebook.)

Off in the distance, you hear a sound.  It’s like the clank of a wind chime, or the ring of a bell.  Though faint, the slow form of a music box melody is distinct to your young ears, and you instinctually KNOW what’s coming your way: The Ice Cream Truck.

“I-I-I-I-ICE CREEEEAAAAM!!!” you scream as you simultaneously run around in circles, nearly knocking over your playmates, scramble, scrounge, and/or beg for change, stumble towards the truck, and then, finally, stand before the beloved Ice Cream Man—or Womyn, though I’ve never met one—to place your order.

Your frenzy subsides as the ice cream is placed into your little palm, and a mischievous smile, perhaps even Cheshire Grin, appears on your face.  Having yet to develop “social decorum”, you begin to sing—and dance—with your ice cream in hand, ever so tauntingly, to your poor, glum chums who couldn’t buy any ice cream:

I have some i-i-ice cre-e-eam, I have some i-i-ice cre-e-e-eam, I have some i-i-i-ice cream! [Insert Cheshire Grin]

And I’m gonna eat-it-all, I’m gonna eat-it-all… [Insert swivel of hips]

I-i-i-ice cream… I’m gonna eat up all-my-ice-cream… [Insert “The Running Man” or other dance move from “Back in the Day”, as the melting ice cream runs down your arm]

You-don’t-have-no i-i-i-ice cream, you didn’t g-e-e-e-e-t none, you didn’t get none!  [Insert waving of the ice cream treat, in full-out friend-taunting-mode]

You didn’t get none [pause] ‘cause you are on The Wel-l-l-l-fare,

You can’t affo-o-o-o-rd it… You can’t affo-o-o-o-rd it,

YOU-CAN’T-AFFO-O-O-O-RD-IT! [Cut!]

No, I did not imagine that myself.  That, my friend, is the magic of Edward Regan Murphy, better known as Eddie Murphy, or simply Eddie.  In case you couldn’t tell where that classic clip is from, it’s straight outta Eddie’s epic, full-length feature Stand-Up Comedy Film Eddie Murphy: Delirious.

If you haven’t seen it, as Gwen Stefani said on her solo debut, “What You Waiting For?”  Even if the “Ice Cream Song & Dance” is not your childhood experience, I assure you it’s a must see.  The year is 1983.  Eddie, merely 22 years old at the time, is up and coming from being up late and performing his ass off on a little show called Saturday Night Live.  Decked out in red leather pants, that accentuate that ass of his, and a matching jacket, Eddie—with his hairless chest, and “filthy” mouth—are on display, for the world to both see and hear.

Now when I say “filthy”, I’m talkin’ bout the kind of mouth that cannot just be “washed out with soap”.  Nope.  Not even on a rope.  Eddie’s brand of “filth” is the kind where the term “F-Word” is multi-functional.  Not only did he manage to offend the Gay Community with the use of the “F-Word” with the two ‘g’s’ in it (for which he’s since apologized for), he also finds a flurry of fun uses for the more “traditional F-Word”.  Better still, Eddie gets real creative with the letter ‘f’ in one of my favorite lines, about the late-great musician Luther Vandross and his way with womyn despite being, “a Kentucky Fried Chicken-Eatin’ Motherf*cker.”

Delirious showcases Eddie Murphy, who’s been shocking his family with dirty jokes since he was about age seven, and first began performing stand-up comedy professionally at age 15, in rare form.  The film captures his marvelous ability to impersonate other musical legends such as Michael Jackson (MJ), Elvis (MJ’s former Father-in-law-in-Heaven), and James Brown, and allows Eddie to stroll down Memory Lane with other priceless parts like “The Family Cookout”, “The Fart Game”, and of course, “The Ice Cream” scene.

While this outstanding stand-up film is chock full of fabulously funny sh*t, you may veer more on the side of Bill Cosby, and disapprove of Eddie’s love of using “colorful language” in his comedy routines.  Eddie’s second biggest childhood inspiration, next to Richard Pryor, Mr. J-E-L-L-O Cosby, who Eddie’s heralded as a “Brilliant Genius Storyteller”, is referring to the kind of language that he calls “filth-flarn-flarn-filth”.  If that’s the case, and even if it’s not, let’s continue “Back Down Memory Lane”, and re-visit some of the highlights along the road of Eddie Murphy’s Rise to Stardom. 

For starters, Eddie and Saturday Night Live (SNL) certainly got a “Rise” out of each other: the live, late-night NBC Show helped pave the way to making Eddie Murphy a household name, while Eddie helped revitalize the sketch comedy show, receiving three Primetime Emmy Award Nominations during his four-year tenure (1980-84).  Just thinking about scenes from Saturday Night Live: The Best of Eddie Murphy can bring me to fits of laughter that last for weeks. Seriously. Best known on SNL for his “serious” portrayals of Gumby (“I’m Gumby Dammit!”) and The Little Rascals’ Buckwheat—particularly when assassinated—Eddie kills it when he plays Stevie Wonder, singing a duet of “Ebony and Ivory” with Frank Sinatra, played by the hilarious Joe Piscopo.  Eddie, embodying the “Black Mr. Rogers”, is ever-hysterical in “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood”, and let us not forget that one sketch where he channels a bit of Bob Marley as a “Rasta Man”, frontin’ a Reggae band at some upscale, mostly White event, singin’, “…So We Kill the White People!  O-o-ooohhh!  But Buy My Record First!”

Amidst the SNL Skits and Delirious-ness, Eddie begins moonlighting in a major way in motion pictures.  With his debut to the Silver Screen, 48 Hours (1982), Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte help breathe life into the new cinematic genre known as the “Buddy Cop” film.  Think of Action Comedies like Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, Rush Hour, and Beverly Hills Cop (1984), in which Eddie lands his first leading role as Axel Foley, a sharp detective in tight denim and a sweatshirt.   Of course there’ve been sequels—good, bad, and ugly—to each of these great “Sidekick Flicks”.

While I whole-heartedly believe that 1983’s Trading Places, where Eddie goes from bum to baller, alongside his fellow SNL bigwig Dan Aykroyd, is one of the best SNL-breakout films ever, as well as a true cult-classic, my heart gravitates more towards the Rom-Com, or dare I say “Chick Flick”, side of Eddie Murphy.  If you can call Coming to America (1988), which opens to a scene of Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) being bathed by naked lady servants, one who proclaims, “the Royal Penis is clean Your Highness”, or Boomerang (1992) where Eddie plays a player—and chauvinistic pig—who gets played by a man-eater, “Romantic”.

Speaking of being a “pig”, director John Landis opens up “the barn door” in his famous (or infamous) 2005 Collider Interview, where he candidly states:

“The guy on Trading Places was young and full of energy and curious and funny and fresh and great. The guy on Coming to America was the pig of the world – the most unpleasant, arrogant, bullshit entourage… just an asshole. However, Eddie is brilliant, and he and I have always worked together well… On Coming to America, we clashed quite a bit because he was such a pig; he was so rude to people. I was like, “Jesus Christ, Eddie! Who are you?”… We had a good working relationship, but our personal relationship changed because he just felt that he was a superstar and that everyone had to kiss his ass. He was a jerk. But great – in fact, one of the greatest performances he’s ever given. The character he plays in Coming to America, (Akeem), is so opposite of what Eddie really was: a gentleman, charming and elegant, as opposed to this jerk-off.”

Wow.  Who was this masked Murphy?  And more specifically, what happened between the years 1983 and 1988?  Could Eddie really have changed that much over the course of five years, or had he always been masked?  And perhaps the most critical query of all is: Who is Eddie Murphy now?

I believe my sleepless, slightly obsessive study of “All Things Eddie Murphy” has finally allowed me to pinpoint this personality shift, or at least the primary factors that contributed to it.  Mind you, Eddie was essentially a Child Star, having begun his career, really, in his preteens.  Eddie and his big brother Charlie Murphy, two-years his senior, grew up in a modest home, with hard-working, no-nonsense mother Lillian, and talented, yet heavy-drinking father Charles.  At the age of about eight and ten, respectively, Eddie and Charlie were put into foster care, after their dad past away, and their mom was too ill to care for them.  Though this removal from the home lasted only one year, and they were reunited with their mom and a new stepdad, this time in Eddie’s young life, particularly surrounding his father’s death undoubtedly shaped him in ways I cannot even begin to fully comprehend or analyze.  This is not to get all “psycho-babble” on you; rather I’m simply underlining the fragile beginnings of this freakin’ comedic genius to highlight the underlying emotional issues that apparently pushed him from “kid to pig”.

Cinematically speaking, Eddie was on a high (perhaps even natural) and on a roll, in terms of his first handful of flicks, so it was only natural for him to begin exuding the ego-driven energy of a “high roller”, right?  Well, besides the major flop Best Defense (1984) with Dudley Moore, which nobody, even those involved in the film, gave a flying F-bomb about, I can see Eddie Murphy’s disappointments and seething anger simmering to a boil in three easy steps—and years.

Step One: 1985 – “Party All The Time” – the R&B track on Eddie Murphy’s Album How Could It Be.  I know it’s not a film; I said R&B, as in music.  No, not a comedy track, which means yes, Eddie Murphy is a “serious” singer and musician.  And, no, I don’t know “how could it be”, yet I am goin’ out on a limb, risking shame, even scorn, to say that I LOVE this song! YES I DO!  I used to sing it in the shower!  “…My girl wants to party all the time, party all the time…paaaaa…arty all-l-l-l the tiiiiii…….ime!!!”  And I (heart) the music video too—featuring a Blond Rick James Bitch!  Regardless of my “love”, this “music career” clearly didn’t pan out the way Eddie may’ve intended, which is why it’s Step One.

Step Two: 1986 – The Golden Child – This film had promise, or rather promised a poignant storyline, featuring Eddie Murphy as the star.  This tale of “Asian-persuasion” was billed as a “Comedy”, yet nobody was laughing.  Janet Maslin of the New York Times opined about this “listless, joyless” film back in February 1987, going on to write that, “a passive acceptance of a film this feeble sends a message of encouragement to those who made it.”  Ouch.  Though I think the makers got “the message”, since The Golden Child amassed only about $79 million in comparison to Beverly Hills Cop’s nearly $235 million raked in two years prior.

Step Three: 1987 – Beverly Hills Cop II – While the soundtrack got beaucoup attention from Bob Seger’s Chart-topping “Shakedown”, nominated for both a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar for Best Original Song, and George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex”, offered a Razzie Award for Worst Song (Why?!?), the sequel itself lacked the content, character, and box office command of the original, netting about $80 million less.  Drew McWeeny, Blog Author of Saturday Night at the Movies, doesn’t mince words: “…Tony Scott’s Beverly Hills Cop II is as phony as the first film is sincere… And the Axel Foley character, so fresh and simple the first time around, was an ego-driven asshole in the second film.”

Here we go again with the name-calling.  From Steps One, Two, and Three, we begin to see how the lines between fact and fiction, creator and character can begin to blur.  The bottom line is that Eddie’s rapid and Raw Rise was beginning to take a bit of a nosedive, I’ll venture to say, somewhere between 1986 and 1987, when he began “suffering” at least a slight dip in his success, if not stardom.  This conflicting and simultaneous Rise and Demise certainly put Eddie’s ever-expanding ego to the test.  And, along with other by-products of fame, this contradiction began pissing him off.

Enter Eddie Murphy: Raw, his stand-up comedy answer to Delirious, also released in 1987.  Riotously funny as it is, I must say that after watching it again the other night for “all-intensive research purposes”, this viewing of Raw actually made me Raw with anger.  No Joke.  Aside from the fact that I’ve been cursing like a sailor ever since, droppin’ F- & MF-bombs like I’m caught up in combat, I think Eddie’s Raw energy and anger literally grabbed me through the TV screen, and put me in a headlock.  Eddie is angry, with the 80s, with womyn, and with 80s womyn.  He’s says he was close to marrying this beautiful 19 year old womyn (he’s about 26 at this time), then decides against it because she might end up filing for divorce and demanding “HALF!”  And Eddie’s not havin’ it.  “Half” of his act is spent warning men to “be careful”, because “womyn are vindictive”.  To be fair, Eddie also “warns” all the ladies in the audience about men and their penchant for cheating on their partners, telling them in no uncertain terms: “(there are) no loyal men.  We are low by nature.  All men do it.  Do not think for a second that you’re the only womyn your man is f*cking!”

Well, so much for Rom-Com’s.  As politically incorrect as it is, one of the funniest quotes from Raw is, “EDDIEEE, I WANT HALF!” – From the Afrikan “Bush Bitch” that Eddie claims he’ll have to marry so she won’t be hip to the American legal system.  That is, until an American Sistah clues the “Bush Bitch” in, and coaxes “Bush Bitch” to ask, “EDDIEEE!  WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?”  Awful, on multiple levels, I know.

Before I highlight a couple lowlights amidst the Demise of Eddie Murphy, let me preface by proclaiming my LOVE for this man—as an artist,  multifaceted mastermind, and comedic legend.  I grew up on Eddie, and I think it’s safe to say that he’s still one of my all-time favorite comedians.  This is why this journalistic journey has unbeknownst to me, become so personal.  Try as I might to not give a f*ck, I genuinely care about him.  It’s oddly similar to how deeply I feel about Michael Jackson (R.I.P.L.O.V.E.), and I guess I’m not alone in this feeling.

Eddie seems to feel the same way about Michael Jackson as I do, and decided to sing a song with him.  Um, yeah.  It’s called “Whazupwitu”, from Eddie’s third (yes, third) studio album Love’s Alright (1993).  This production is a royal slap in the face just a year after Eddie made a rousing cameo appearance, reminiscent of Coming to America, in MJ’s “Remember the Time” music video.  Despite the fact that the King of Pop himself is featured on “Whazupwitu”, the word “horrendous” does not begin to describe the cringe-inducing horror that is this song, let alone the painfully awkward music video.  Have you seen the music video?!?  Probably not since MTV officially retired it in 1999 after being voted by viewers as the third worst video of all time.  If you do happen to find it, brace yourself. (And be afraid, very afraid.)

Love was alright in 1993, which is the same year that Eddie tied the knot, jumped the broom, and got married to longtime partner Nicole Mitchell.  She bore five of his seven children.  They then divorced in 2006, the same year that Eddie began dating “Scary Spice” Melanie Brown (Mel B.) of the Spice Girls.  It seems she wasn’t “scary” enough for Eddie to deny paternity of their unborn child once she became pregnant that year.  He demanded DNA-testing to prove his seed, and indeed “Eddie be the baby-daddy of Mel B.”  In light of the fact that he reportedly is not in contact with little Angel Iris Murphy Brown, ironically born on Eddie’s 46th birthday, it looks as if this Papa Murphy agrees “eight is enough”.  At least that he knows of—or claims.

In betwixt all of this baby-making, some of Eddie’s “extra-curricular activities” also went public, namely picking up transvestite prostitutes, particularly one by the name of “Shalomar” (R.I.P.)  in 1997 This act of “helping out”, as Eddie referred to the incident as, occurred right around the making of the “God-Awful” film Holy Man (1998).  [Insert sprinkling of Holy Water]

In Delirious, Eddie expresses his love for extraterrestrials, or rather the TV Show Star Trek.  Perhaps this is why he’s punished us with the “outer space” movies The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) and Meet Dave (2008).   This is where I draw my “Love Line”, as I’ve never before been a “Trekie”, and do not wish to trek into the depths of despair that comprises these disastrous motion pictures.  Now, before I spoil the “Coming (Back) to America Surprise” of Eddie Murphy, let me encapsulate the flying “flarn-flarn” film with the strangely “extraterrestrial” sounding name.  This is the embarrassing flop that spoiled Eddie’s chances of reaching new heights, winning where he’s never won before, and snagging an Oscar.  The “filth” I’m talkin’ bout is Norbit (2007), while the “comeback” came less than a year prior.

Let’s get the “bad and the ugly” outta the way first.  While Norbit, the lead character with the same name as the film title, played by Eddie Murphy, was adorable to watch, the film as a whole was disturbing to say the least.  Rasputia, also played by Eddie, is a messed up mélange of at least three popular characters dressed in drag.  Rasputia resembles not one, but two of Martin Lawrence’s famous faces: Sheneneh from Martin, his sitcom from back in the 90s, and Big Momma from his film Big Momma’s House.  Rasputia also seems eerily similar to Madea from Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family, and a myriad of Perry’s other plays and films.

Here’s the scary part: Rasputia is also reminiscent of another, far more frightening female character—NOT in drag: Mary Lee Johnston, the malicious mother in Precious, play by Mo’Nique in her Academy award winning performance.  You almost get the chills as big ol’ Rasputia verbally, emotionally, and even physically abuses her skinny lil’ husband Norbit, particularly as she proceeds to lock him up in the basement, and especially when she don’t have her wig or weave on.   Not cool.  I promise you.  Evermore disturbing—besides the fact that I actually sat through this entire film, and watched the director’s cuts—is the quote from Scott Patrick of Hollywood One on One on the DVD cover: “(Eddie Murphy) as you love to see him!”  Really Scott?  Really?!?  I assure you, IT IS NOT.  Still, the best part of Norbit is perhaps when Black Jack, played by Terry Crews (the dad on Everybody Hates Chris), says “breastestsess”.

Now here comes the “good”.  Just months before filming Norbit, Eddie Murphy becomes James “Thunder” Early in Dreamgirls (2006).  In what could be described as “the performance of his career”, Eddie is on fire!  In this role, you really feel “Jimmy”; you laugh with him, cheer for him, and cry for him through his joys, pains, failures, and successes.  (Sound familiar?)  For this rockin’ role, Eddie was nominated for numerous awards, including an Oscar.  While he didn’t get the Oscar, he did win several awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.  Upon reporting Eddie Murphy’s official agreement to host the 84th Annual Academy Awards in 2012, our very own Phil Wallace gives us the inside scoop on why the Oscar he was favored for eluded him: “his role in the low-brow film Norbit cost him support among Oscar voters, and Alan Arkin wound up being the upset winner for Little Miss Sunshine.”

Now that Eddie Murphy seems to have “come back down to earth from outer space”, we’ll just have to wait and see how much “sunshine” he manages to bring into the Academy Awards Show that shunned him.  He seems committed thus far, assuring reporters at a Tower Heist (2011) press conference, “I’m looking forward to doing it and I promise I’ll stay there all night.”  This is great news, since he sure high-tailed it outta the 2007 Awards Show, right after Arkin stole his, uh, “Thunder”.

In terms of the quality of his performance, it can’t possibly be as unbearable as last year’s co-hosting blunder with Anne Hathaway and James Franco, can it?  Eddie begs to differ.  On Monday, October 24, 2011, Eddie proclaimed to Entertainment Tonight (ET) while sitting next to Ben Stiller, promoting Tower Heist, “I’ll be the worst Oscar Host ever.”  He wasn’t done though.  Eddie went on to announce, “I’m going to wear a powered sky blue tuxedo and at the end of the evening I’m going to urinate on myself in front of a billion people.”  ET Online said he was joking; I’m not so sure.

Tower Heist, which I’ve mentioned twice, is Eddie Murphy’s latest film, opening in theaters Friday, November 4, 2011.  This Action Comedy, about a group of white-collar workers plotting payback after being victims of a Ponzi scheme, also stars Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, and even Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, the lead actress from Precious.  It was actually Eddie who approached Tower Heist director Brett Ratner, famous for his direction of the Rush Hour film series, with his idea for a “Heist Comedy”.  Ratner, who told ET Online, “if it wasn’t for Eddie, Rush Hour wouldn’t even exist.  Eddie reinvented the genre of Action Comedy,” happens to be co-producer of the upcoming 2012 Academy Awards, so they figured the cross promotion for the show and the Heist would be doubly nice.  Only time—and the Rotten Tomatoes website—will tell.

As you may’ve surmised—to no surprise—this discussion ain’t over.  If you’ve made it this far, and survived, you’ll have to wait for my “Bottom 5 Worst and Top 5 Best Eddie Murphy Films Ever” coming to you soon!

In the words of Eddie from Delirious, portraying his father Charles during a drunken episode at the family cookout, to his wife, Eddie’s mom, Lillian:

“And if (you) don’t like it, you can get the f*ck out.”

DOOT! [Insert the sound of Mama Murphy propelling her pump into the air, aiming for her husband’s head, at torpedo speed.]

To Papa Murphy’s swift reply,

“You missed me Bitch!”

Yes, Eddie Murphy, we have missed you.  Bitch.