Eddie Murphy: Delirious

Bruce Growers

BY Ian GormelyPublished May 22, 2009

Given his descent into irrelevancy over the past decade-and-a-half, it's hard to remember that Eddie Murphy was once considered one of the funniest people in comedy. A spot in the Saturday Night Live cast and starring roles in movies like 48 Hours and Beverly Hills Cop made him a mainstream star but any credibility Murphy still clings to rests squarely on the shoulders of his debut HBO comedy special, Delirious. Unlike most comics, Murphy wasn't known for his stand-up prior to Delirious's release, so many in attendance showed up expecting his relatively harmless Buckwheat and Stevie Wonder impressions from SNL. Instead, the then 22-year old Murphy treated the audience to some of the raunchiest and funniest comedy ever recorded — Wikipedia cites the F-bomb count at 230 in a scant 70 minutes. The easiest and most common criticism lodged against Delirious is that it's racist, misogynistic and homophobic. While the homophobia, particularly Murphy's quip that homosexuals can carry AIDS on their lips, can be chalked up to pure ignorance, keep in mind this was filmed in 1983. And while accusations of racism and misogyny aren't unfounded, it's important to look at context. Murphy uses racist or misogynistic situations and stereotypes in order to setup his jokes. The punch lines themselves aren't that offside. Rather they flip stereotypes (people of other nationalities making fun of our accents) or reflect changing attitudes ("chivalry's dead, baby"). Murphy's comedic style comes directly from Richard Pryor and is an obvious precursor to Dave Chappelle. This 25th anniversary DVD package includes deleted scenes from the original show, as well as a fairly self-congratulatory, contemporary interview with Murphy, who basically gives himself a pat on the back and makes no effort to apologize for or explain the context of any of the material.
(Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada/Sound Venture/Zed Filmworks)

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