EDITOR’S NOTE: To mark the sad passing of Charlie Murphy we present this encore edition of our 2014 interview with the comedian. Goodnight Mr. Murphy, wherever you are.
BY JONATHAN VALANIA The first rule about interviewing comedian Charlie Murphy is DO NOT ASK WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED WITH DAVE CHAPPELLE. The second rule is much the same, as is the third. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure that out until it was too late. Live and learn. Judging by his reaction to the Chappelle inquiry, I chose not bring up my other hot button question: What the hell ever happened to your brother? He used to be so fucking funny and then somewhere along the way he became this bitter hack seemingly intent on proving Mencken’s dictum that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. Alas, that is a question for someone to else to ask. What we did talk about however was Rick James (bitch!), his first blow job, Caligula, getting paid, Norbit, growing up with Eddie, big pimpin’, and the tragic death of his wife.
PHAWKER: You’ve probably been asked this a million times but I have to ask you – what ever happened to David Chappelle?
CHARLIE MURPHY: You gotta ask Dave that question. I seen Dave and he seems pretty happy to me. He does stand up still, he’s out in the Bay Area a lot, and he seems to be pretty happy.
PHAWKER: But he doesn’t wanna do the show anymore or didn’t wanna do the show anymore?
CHARLIE MURPHY: I don’t know if they didn’t wanna do the show no more, if Dave didn’t wanna do the show no more, I don’t know what the story is at this point you know? That stuff I let go a long time ago, know what I’m saying? The show’s been out of production like eight years now you know? So, I don’t really think about the Dave Chappelle Show on a daily basis. That’s far removed from my reality right now, the reason why I get to do all the beautiful things I’ve been blessed to do, like going to Scandinavia, going to Canada, and people have love for me, you know? I don’t really know what happened, you know what I’m saying? There’s so many different rumors, you know?
PHAWKER: Can you tell me your Rick James story real briefly for our readers that might not be familiar with it?
CHARLIE MURPHY: Rick James story?
PHAWKER: The time he came over and put his shoes on your couch?
CHARLIE MURPHY: When I met Rick James I was 24 years old and just getting out of the Navy. I was at that point where I couldn’t figure out how to get a woman to give me a blow job. They just wouldn’t do. I had the wrong approach or whatever but I just couldn’t master the art of getting a woman to give me a blow job. Then I met Rick James. I’ll never forget the night I met rick James — I was shocked. ‘Rick James, wow!’ you know? I’m hanging out with him and my fellas and the night that I met him I got my first blow job from one of the chicks that was around him. He was tellin’ them, “go over there and have sex with Charlie.” I had never been around anybody like that before, know what I’m saying? Never. This person was like Caligula, know what I’m saying? We’ve all seen that movie Caligula andI don’t care who you are, you can say what you wanna say outwardly, but all men really wish they could walk into a Caligula-like environment at least one time in they life, you know what I’m saying? So here, me and Rick James are real tight. I didn’t realize he had access to that kind of lifestyle. We became real tight. He was a real playful dude, you know we always used to rough house, beat on each other, kick each other, punch each other, whatever we was both young then. If you hit me now, at the age I am now, you’d probably get stabbed. But you know back then we used to rough house around like that.
PHAWKER: What about this thing with him coming over and putting his shoes on the couch?
CHARLIE MURPHY: I see what you tryin’ to do right now, I’m one step ahead of you and it’s not gonna work. If I tell you a story that’s on television on the phone right now, it’s actually taking away from what’s on television. It’s taking away from what we’ve done. The best thing, if people don’t know about the Rick James story, go on YouTube, it’s right there. You don’t gotta wait for it to come on the Chappelle show, it’s right on YouTube, you know? When I try to reenact it on the phone, it’s like you know, if you tried to get Robert DeNiro to play Godfather on the phone. You think it’s gonna be as good as a performance as the movie. No it’s not, cause the movie has a whole lotta other parameters — talkin’ on the phone you can’t see my face, you can’t see nothin, all you hear is my voice so, we should abandon this whole process of trying to reenact any of the Chappelle Show stuff on the phone, cause people weren’t exposed to it on the phone, they were exposed to on television, know what I mean?
PHAWKER: I’ll take that as you don’t wanna continue to do this anymore. Charlie, what do you wanna talk about?
CHARLIE MURPHY: We can talk about anything. We can talk about what we’ve been talking about. Every now and then I get on the phone, people are interviewing me and they expect because I’m a comedian for me to get on the phone and just be zany and all that and you know, have one liners about the Chappelle Show and Rick James and all that. The reality is, I’ve been doing stand up for 10 years. If I were talking about Rick James the whole 10 years you wouldn’t be talking to me right now. You wouldn’t be talking to me because this played out a long time ago. The reason you’re talking to me right now is because I got a show coming up in Philly. The reason I got a show coming up in Philly is because promoters in Philly heard about how well my show’s been doing in other venues I been going to. I been doin’ that well because I talk about new stuff, man. I have new material, I’m a real comedian, I’m not a gimmick. Know what I’m sayin’? So I don’t keep talkin’ about Rick James and Dave Chappelle over and over again, I don’t open my show and come out and start talking about Chappelle Show and reenact sketches, I don’t do none of that hack shit. That’s hack shit. I’m not a hack, I’m a real artist, bro. If you come see my show, or look at my DVD, hear my stuff I did, it’s all quality stuff. I always bring new stuff, you know? I don’t have to try and sell myself or whatever, because if you come see my act, there’s nothing zany about it. It’s just funny, you know what I’m saying? I went to Gotham Comedy Club last night in New York and worked out, had a great work out, you know what I’m saying? I’m not a clown, I’m not a buffoon, I don’t pull my ass out, I don’t rely on what you’re familiar with about me. All I need is for you to be familiar with me and go “Oh, that’s Charlie Murphy from Chappelle Show, what’s he have to talk about?” And I’m gonna be talkin’ about who knows what, because I can do that and they think it’s funny. So that’s the way I approach comedy. As far as, you know, when I do radio or any kind of press, a lot of times people will ask me, “What question do you want me to ask you so you can answer with a joke?” I’m like, how about no question? Ask me whatever question you wanna ask me. Get the real answer, that’s what people wanna hear, they don’t wanna hear me trying to be funny. Trying to make something funny that’s not funny, know what I’m sayin’, that’s not what I do.
PHAWKER: Let me ask you this, who are your favorite comedians? Who’s influenced you?
CHARLIE MURPHY: All the ones that are rich [Laughs].
PHAWKER: How many of them are rich?
CHARLIE MURPHY: All the comedians who are rich have influenced me. I see what this can lead to. You go to somebody’s mansion and they got six cars in the driveway, you go, “this person got all this from telling jokes?” That’s how far it can go, you know what I’m saying? It’s not so much as me being hung up on the physical attributes of the wealthy, but I’m talking about having financial security for your children, knowin’ that the kids are gonna be ok, that’s the main thing for me, know what I mean? Knowing that my kids are gonna be ok. They’re gonna have everything they need to grow up and be strong, go out and be productive citizens.
PHAWKER: When you two were kids, who was funnier — you or Eddie?
CHARLIE MURPHY: I don’t know, we were both kids, man. I actually liked to tease people man, if there was anything wrong, if you had acne or if you had eczema or anything like that, I would tease you about that until you started crying, and I would do it with jokes. I’d make the other people in the room laugh about things I was saying about you, that was my thing. And he got jealous, he was able to identify what it was that we were doing and take it on to a professional crack early on.
PHAWKER: You guys worked together on Norbit, correct?
CHARLIE MURPHY: Yes, we did, we worked together on Norbit, Vampire in Brooklyn, The Kid Who Loved Christmas, the other one, damn, come on Charlie…Harlem Nights, know what I’m sayin’? When I first started in show business man, I started out as a photo double for Eddie. I did a movie when I was 9 but I didn’t do any more until I was grown. When I got back in the business, Eddie was already a big star so trying to come back was crazy. It was like “Yeah right, you’re wanna be an actor. Of course, your brother Eddie Murphy, of course you wanna be an actor. We’re not taking you serious.” So I started doing jobs like being an extra and a photo double. That allowed me to be on set, allowed me to learn, listen and be there, know what I’m sayin’, have more confidence when I was doing auditions, and also put me around the people working in the industry, and I made friendships. That led to me getting roles. That’s how I got CB4, Chris Rock was my friend, I knew him. It wasn’t like I went and he didn’t know me and I auditioned and I blew him away, I knew Chris Rock. Chris Rock gave me that role because of his knowing me as a real person, like “This guy would be perfect for that role.”
PHAWKER: You guys have a new project in the works, is that correct? Are you working on a new movie or writing one?
CHARLIE MURPHY: I’m working on a movie with Paramount right now, I also have a movie coming out with a Canadian film company. I did a film with Mike Clattenburg who directed Trailer Park Boys, a pretty big hit up in Canada last year, did pretty well. He directed a movie up there starring Will Sasso from MADTV, that should be coming out in like February, it’s called The Guys Who Move Furniture, it’s a dramatic comedy, it’s a different look for me, it’s a good movie, so I can’t wait for people to see that.
PHAWKER: So it’s not just a comedy, it’s a little bit serious, too?
CHARLIE MURPHY: There’s a lot of serious stuff in there, man.
PHAWKER: And then you said there’s another movie you’re working on or thinking about, can you talk about that?
CHARLIE MURPHY: That movie is about two guys that were street people and they got out of the life. Thirty years after they got out of the life they’ve been totally transformed into couch potato/soccer dad/middle America types, and then something happens where they have to go back into the life again temporarily. The people who represent the new part of their life can’t know what they’re doing, their families don’t know. There’s a whole plot going on with gangstas and serial killers and all kinds of stuff going on. The movie is funny but it moves real fast, there’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s part comedy, part slasher film and part family film. It’s a blend, if you think about all these different elements going on. The bottom line is it’s different and it’s fun.
PHAWKER: So it’s part comedy, part slasher film, and part family film?
CHARLIE MURPHY: It’s part slasher film because in the movie, part of the backdrop of the movie is this serial killer is killing pimps.
PHAWKER: Serial killers and pimps, got it.
CHARLIE MURPHY: Yeah, they used to be pimps and they stopped doing it. They become regular dudes, know what I’m sayin’. One guy’s a preacher the other guy’s a Boy Scout troop leader, family of six people, got your kids, got your wife and they really genuinely try to be good people. Then something from their past sucks them back into that life. They’re not what they were, they’re not as hard as they used to be, they’re not built for that world anymore, so they’re like a fish out of water in that world. The movie’s funny man, trust me.
PHAWKER: Do you have a working title for it?
CHARLIE MURPHY: Pimps Again.
PHAWKER: Ideally who would be starring in it? Yourself and somebody else?
CHARLIE MURPHY: Of course I’m gonna be in it, man. Who do I want? The thing about this is, when they did Mad Mad World with Jonathan Winters and all those stars back when they did that movie, one of the big deals with that movie was they had so many comedians that were famous in the same movie. Right now we’re in the climate where you can do that right now, cause as far as comedians, If there’s enough other guys around, and they’re well known enough where you can make money, you can have a movie with a lot of them in the cast. The title of the movie is, how do I put it, I don’t want nobody to take it wrong because the movie is no way shape or form glorifying and glamorizing pimps.
PHAWKER: One last question for you that I usually ask everyone, if you had one thing in your life you could do over or do differently, what would it be and why?
CHARLIE MURPHY: To have had less arguments with my wife who passed away a few years ago. She was 39 years old. If there’s one thing I could do over again, I would have less disagreements with her when she was here, because I didn’t know she was gonna be here a short time. We spent a lot of time bickering over stuff that was nothing. That taught me that people that you know in your life that you love, man, don’t hold grudges and bicker and argue because you don’t know when they gonna take it away from you man, you know? If there was one thing I could understand it would be that. I would spend less time dwelling during the relationship on stuff that was, you know, at the end of the day it was a waste of time and a waste of energy.