Eddie Murphy: Master of Impersonations
“You get born only once in this business, but you can die again and again.” –Eddie Murphy
Whether he’s wearing a red leather suit and donning a Jheri curl, or lending his voice as a lovable donkey, Comedian/Actor Eddie Murphy is an entertainer that is loved by all generations.
Murphy first developed his skill for impersonations by watching a lot of TV as child. He would do impressions from Looney Tunes characters like Bugs Bunny and Sylvester the Cat. “My mother says I never talked in my own voice,” he told Biography.com.
At 15, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native hosted a talent show at his Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School where he tickled his audience’s funny bone with his Al Green impersonation. This experience sparked a fire in Murphy to begin working on his comedy routines after school rather than his school work. As a result he began performing his routines at local clubs and bars, but had to repeat 10th grade.
Amazingly, he still graduated only a few months after his classmates and was voted “Most Popular” by his graduating class.
After auditioning six times, at age 19, Murphy was added to the 1980-1981 cast of Saturday Night Live where he made his roles as Mister Robinson, Buckwheat, and Tyrone Green some of the most memorable characters on the show.
At 21, Murphy took his comedy to the silver screen with his film debut as Nick Nolte in “48 Hours.” From then on, he took over the 80s and early 90s with his roles in the films “Coming to America,” “Beverly Hill Cops (I-III),” “Boomerang,” and “Harlem Nights.”
“Coming to America” is one of Murphy’s most successful films to date due to the fact that it is the first film in which he plays multiple characters. In the film, Murphy plays an African Prince, Akeem Joffer, who decides to come to America in hopes of finding a wife. Aside from the Prince, he also plays the neighborhood barber Clarence, Sexual Chocolate’s lead singer Randy Watson, and an old Jewish white man named Saul. As a result of his superb acting, the film was widely received by critics and audiences alike, and has made over $128 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.
His brief music career also added to his stardom. In 1985, Murphy made his musical debut in 1985 with the release of “How Could It Be,” which produced his only hit “Party All the Time.” Although the album received horrible reviews, the Rick James produced “Party All the Time” made it to No. 2 on the Billboard “Hot 100.”
“I have a real versatile voice,” Murphy told The Baltimore Sun. “I do so many different things with my voice all the time. I’m always doing some weird [stuff] with my voice, so I guess I’ve got pretty strong vocal cords.
“Plus, I’ve been writing since I was 19 years old. So from being a writer, and having the control over my voice that I have, and then having my own personal thing that I want to say and do musically, I can go in any direction and grab anybody’s vibe.”
In the late 90’s his career was brought back to life when he starred in “The Nutty Professor,” as well as the family films “Dr. Dolittle,” Mulan,” and “Shrek.”
In 2006, he came back on the scene with his role as Jimmy Early in the film “Dreamgirls,” and won a Golden Globe Award in return. Shockingly, Murphy has won many awards over the years, but only one Golden Globe.
In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Murphy said that when he’s not shooting a movie, every now and then, his life is “peaceful, quiet, that’s my day-to-day. I play my guitar, hang out with my girl. My kids went to their mom’s this week. I’m chilling, no stress. After all these years, I’ve done well and I’m cool. I feel comfortable in my skin, I’ve saved some paper, everybody’s healthy, my kids are beautiful and smart, doing different things, it’s all good. I’m trying to maintain my sh*t like this, and do a fun project every now and then.”
In November, Murphy released his latest fun project, the film “Tower Heist,” alongside an all-star cast. Even though the film is doing well in theaters, Murphy no longer has anything to prove to anyone, anymore.
He explained to Rolling Stone that age has freed him of what the movie industry, media and public think of him: “I turned 50 in April. I know this is a business where success is the exception, not the rule. There’s really nothing you could say – even if you don’t like me, you have to give it up, I’ve been around for 30 years. I think Stallone said it: You don’t do 25 years in this business being stinky.