3 September 2003 | petershelleyau
before he hit bigtime with movies
This compilation of skits from Saturday Night Live covers the 4 years that Eddie Murphy appeared on the TV show before he left to make movies, and begins with an intro where he returned thinking he was lucky to get the gig after the failure of Best Defense. Ironically, Beverly Hills Cop came out just before his return, so he was back to being an "actor".
These skits reveal Murphy's talent for impersonation, his victims here including James Brown, Stevie Wonder (who appears to do his own self-parody), Little Richard and Richard Simmons, Jesse Jackson, and Desmond Tutu. His James Brown is the most successful, perhaps because Murphy possesses a good singing voice as well, however some of the impressions smack of the use of him because he happens to be black. Tellingly, Murphy's persona is that of the hostile jive-talking negro, which pales in comparison to the genuine eccentric touches Lily Tomlin brings to her performance with him in the Old Colored Man skit.
The Little Richard Simmons and Dion Dion skits show Murphy in his much criticised gay-bashing mode. When he is disguised as a white man to infiltrate the supposed underground behavior he is otherwise excluded from, he looks more latino than white, which undermines the joke. It's not much of a joke anyway, since it inforces the reverse racism of "stupid white men" who fear the black revolution.
Although most of these skits are unfunny, two almost redeem the collection. Pros and Cons presents the new literary phenomena of prison writers, and is shot in a documentary style, with all of the production credited to Norman Mailer. And the Nightline Buckwheat Has Been Shot extended skit manages to parody the footage of the shootings of Ronald Reagan, Lee Harvey Oswald, and TV news.
Apart from Tomlin, the collection also includes cameos from Ron Howard, Mr T, and Joe Piscopo doing a cute Frank Sinatra.