Eddie Murphy is a comedy legend. But is he ready for the new, more progressive landscape of comedy? He thinks so.
In a new interview with the New York Times' Jason Zinoman, the famed comedian talked about his return to comedy via the upcoming biopic Dolemite Is My Name, about the life of 70s blaxploitation film star Rudy Ray Moore, as well as his forthcoming Netflix comedy special and hosting gig at his alma mater, Saturday Night Live.
Murphy's return to comedy comes at a time when audiences are less accepting of jokes at the expense of marginalized or disadvantaged communities. When comedy great Dave Chappelle returned to the stage with his Netflix special Sticks and Stones, it was marked by outcry from disappointed fans over jokes that spoke ill of the trans community and the men who have alleged sexual abuse at the hands of Michael Jackson, and the inclusion of a racist caricature of a Chinese person. Late last year, Kevin Hart gave up his Oscar hosting gig after homophobic tweets he wrote between 2009 and 2011 came to light and let off a firestorm of backlash. And most recently, comedian Shane Gillis's offer to join the cast of Saturday Night Live was rescinded shortly after it was announced when recordings from his podcast surfaced in which he made racist jokes about the Asian community and used slurs. All of this has triggered discourse within the comedy community about "cancel culture" and freedom of speech.
Even so, Murphy isn't worried, despite having a history of angering audiences with his use of homophobic slurs and jokes about the LGBTQ+ community. As the NYT mentions, Murphy has been "criticized for jokes on his specials that talked about fear of contracting AIDS from kissing gay men," with the fallout leading him to retreat from stand-up in the early 2000s.
“I went through all that stuff, so this is not scary," he told the Times, and acknowledged his past comedy was "ignorant."
The 58-year-old comedian also said he's "as close as you can get to a technophobe" and has never owned a computer, so he's not worried about how the online masses will react to his comedy special. But it remains to be seen how the world will react to his new material, and whether or not he chooses to engage with that criticism online.
Dolemite Is My Name hits theaters Oct. 4 (and then Netflix on Oct. 25) and Murphy's return to SNL comes Dec. 21.
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