If, like most sensible people, you’re a fan of the criminally short-lived comedy series Chappelle’s Show, it’s pretty much impossible to hear the name "Charlie Murphy" without picturing Dave Chappelle screaming it across a nightclub, dressed as Rick James, stopming on a white leather sofa. Charlie’s "True Hollywood Stories" about his (predominantly violent) encounters with the likes of Rick and Prince were one of the best things in the show, and since it finished in 2006, he has found fame as an actor, screenwriter, and, now, a stand up comic.
Charlie is about to take his Acid Trip tour across the pond to the UK. I figured I'd gave him a call before he leaves the US to discuss hecklers, Prince, his brother Eddie, and the increasing "pussification" (his word) of the world.
VICE: Hi Charlie.
Charlie Murphy: How you doing, sir?
Good, thanks. How are you?
I’m excellent, man. I’ve got a day off so I’m playing video games and watching some TV. So, what’s up?
Well, firstly, I wanted to know why your stand up tour is called "Acid Trip"?
That’s a metaphor, man. It doesn’t mean Charlie Murphy’s coming over there to promote getting high or anything. It’s a metaphor for the world we’re living in. The world’s kind of absurd right now. So I ask the question, “Is all this shit happening for real?”
Have you ever taken acid?
Oh absolutely. I had a good time on it, man. That’s why I named the show "Acid Trip." If I had a bad time, I wouldn’t even bring it up.
Do you get hecklers at your gigs?
I’ve had a couple, yeah. That’s part of the landscape of stand up comedy. But for the most part, I don’t get hecklers because I have a solid show. Put it this way—when people go see a play, do they heckle?
Not usually, no.
Right. And you know why? Because a play has direction, it’s not just bouncing around. I don’t create a circus-like atmosphere where people feel they can just jump in and interrupt. But I’ve dealt with hecklers before, of course. I’m not going to disclose how I dealt with them but I will say this—I’m undefeated. I just remind a heckler that everybody in here paid money to see me, not you, and now they’re being forced to listen to your dumb ass. And they don’t even like you. I marshall the crowd together so that when you get ejected from a Charlie Murphy show, you don’t get ejected by Charlie Murphy—you get ejected by the audience. The crowd throws your ass out.
I read an interview with you in which you said your humor comes from anger. Why’s that?
I’ll put it like this: when I first started doing comedy, I was 42 years old and I was the brother of one of the most celebrated comics in history who made his name in the game 20 years earlier. So, that took a lot of bravery. It’s never been done before. It’s not a part of human reality. It’s like, if Michael Jordan all of a sudden had a big brother who plays basketball and he’s good, too. That does not compute for most people. So, I had to have anger to do this because there were going to be people saying, “You can’t do this.” And when they saw the rage and anger, they got out of my way.
You mentioned your brother Eddie—what was your relationship like growing up?
We were really different as kids. Eddie was always focused on what he’s doing now but I wasn’t into show business back then. I was into basketball, football, karate, boxing. I was gang-banging, I was experimenting with marijuana. I would say I was an all-American teenager.
Did being funny help when you were running with gangs?
Looking back, yeah. Hell yeah. It helps if you can make a grizzly bear laugh, you know what I’m saying? But I never used humor to get out of fights or anything. I was a bully, man. I used to have tons of fights.
Did you fight with Eddie a lot?
Oh, definitely. He could be irritating sometimes. We’d always scrap over little stuff. Like, he had acne as a teenager and I was the worst person to have as a big brother at that time because I made fun of him for it. Because I was bigger and stronger, anything he was eating, I was grabbing it off him. But I was a good big brother too, because Eddie never had to have a fight in his life. If you’re in my family, you could be in the wrong and I’ll still help you. I had always had conflicts about that because when I was young, I had this uncle who was five years older than me and he was getting beat up one time and I jumped in. Next thing I know, he’s looking down at me and I’m getting my butt whipped by the guy who was beating on him. I said to my uncle, “What’s up?” and he’s like, “Well, you started it. You jumped in.” I could never be like that. If you’re in my family and I see you in distress, we’re going down together. I teach my kids that too.
You worked as Eddie’s security guard for a while too, right?
I’m still his security, man. If I’m standing there and you mess with him, I’m still his security today. But I stopped doing that job because I used to react to shit you weren’t supposed to. Professional security teams have to ignore heckles and insults—I couldn’t. I’d walk over, like, “What did you say?” and punch the guy in the mouth. You couldn’t do that today, man. People want to act like babies and get lawsuits if you slap them. Or one guy gets a gun, kills the other and goes to jail for life. It’s all part of the pussification of the world, man.
That’s my invention. Pussification.
Nice. Let’s talk about Chappelle’s Show. Did that Rick James story about him ruining Eddie’s couch really happen?
Oh yeah. All those stories about Rick are totally true.
You and Rick always seem to be fighting in the sketches—did you ever just go for a friendly drink together?
Oh, me and Rick had many drinks together. Me and Rick were like two pirates drinking together, yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum, you know what I’m saying?
Do you have another Rick anecdote that didn’t make it into the show?
No, there are no more. That story was a compilation of anecdotes that captured our relationship. But even if I did have more, to tell another one would be a discredit to the one you know. Because we all know that story is astronomically funny. If you hit a home run, you don’t think, “Well, I’ll try and hit another one,” because you already did it.
You must constantly get people shouting “Charrrlaayy Murrphaayy!” at you in the street…
Yeah, that happens all the time. I don’t find it annoying or anything because I understand the significance of a television set to the human animal. We all spend a lot of time sitting in front of the TV so when we actually see one of the images that comes out of it in real life, it’s going to have an effect on us.
How about Prince and the basketball game—was that really how it happened?
That’s all true, except that Prince had sneakers on for the game. He did actually change his clothes.
Are you still in touch with Prince? Can you give him a call every now and then?
Call Prince? No, I was never able to call Prince. Prince is Eddie’s friend, not mine. I never hung out with Prince unless I was with my brother. And if I see him now, he doesn’t even acknowledge me, man. So fuck him.
Really? He just ignores you?
Yeah. You know where it happened? Prince used to have this room in Vegas where his band performed two or three times a week. We went to see his show once, after the Chappelle’s Show sketch about him had aired. Everyone loved that sketch and thought it was funny but I guess Prince didn’t. Regardless, I’d seen him hanging out with Dave Chappelle at a basketball game, but when I saw him, he had an attitude towards me. Maybe he feels I did him wrong or whatever, but I know in my heart I didn’t because I called him and asked him to be a part of the sketch—just like Rick James was a part of the other one—and he totally ignored me. He treated me like I was not worthy of having a conversation with him. So, it is what it is. If you’re walking around believing that because you play guitar you’re too good to talk to somebody, then, whatever. I don’t trip on it.
How about Dave Chappelle—are you guys still in touch?
No. I see Dave when I see him. We’re all grown men—everybody has kids and families—so I’m not getting on the phone and chit-chatting with guys. If I’m on the phone to you, it’s pertaining to business. All my chit-chatting time goes to my kids, not Dave Chappelle or Prince or whoever.
Do you regret that Chappelle’s Show didn’t go on longer?
I have zero regrets because if the show didn’t end when it did, I wouldn’t be doing stand up and I wouldn’t be talking to you right now. The show was getting ready to blow up like the biggest thing on TV and everyone was going to make tons of money, but then Dave left. If he hadn’t, maybe I wouldn’t have tried stand up. Maybe I would’ve been like, “I’ve made it big, I’m just gonna coast it.”
Would you work with Dave again?
Of course. Who wouldn’t want to work with Dave Chappelle? But I don’t spend my time thinking about working with him and I’ll tell you why—have you seen Dave Chappelle do anything recently?
Exactly. I’m trying to be creative, man. I don’t depend on Dave Chappelle or Eddie Murphy or anyone. I’m getting ready to work with Jamie Foxx right now—I didn’t approach him. He came to me and said, “Charlie, we’re doing this sketch, we want you to be in it.”
I also wanted to ask you about CB4. That film is so great.
It’s a true hip-hop classic, man. Point blank. Everyone in hip-hop loves that movie. When it comes on TV, my Twitter goes crazy because everyone’s commenting on it.
Ice Cube and Eazy-E are in it too. Were they fans of the film’s NWA parodies?
The Ice Cube I know was not in NWA, man.
What do you mean?
I don’t know that Ice Cube. I know the real one. The family man.
So, all the gangsta stuff was just a front?
No, it wasn’t a front at all. It’s just that everybody has their outside face. The Ice Cube we all got to know—the artist—that was his outside face, that’s all. But I feel privileged to know that guy.
You’ve also worked with Snoop Dogg. What do you think of his new incarnation, "Snoop Lion"?
I think it’s great, man. He’s reinventing himself. He can always go back to Snoop Dogg whenever he wants, but Snoop Lion is great. I’m sure his music’s gonna be tight, too.
You were in the navy for a while when you were in your 20s. What was that like?
Well, when you’re in the military, you get accustomed to sleep deprivation. We went to train in Guantanamo Bay, the naval base in Cuba, and I probably got three hours of sleep a night for two weeks. That’s no joke, man. I went all over Europe, North Africa, the Caribbean. I’ve led a real colorful life, bro. I remember, when I just about to get out of the navy, I saw a mushroom cloud over Beirut. That was when they killed 247 US marines in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings. That’s when it all came together for me and I thought, “This is not a high school fraternity.” You’re part of a killing machine, man. You thought I was going to tell you a joke or something, right?
Yeah, I was sort of hoping for a funny moment…
My whole life is a funny moment, man. Something funny’s going to happen when I get off the phone with you and go back into the kitchen. Like, the other day, my dog went to sleep with his back legs on the floor and his front legs and face on the couch next to the laptop. So it looked like he passed out while checking his emails or something. There’s always funny stuff going on.
That is funny. Thanks for speaking to me, Charlie.
No problem, man. Come to the show.
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