Eddie Murphy is one of the funniest comedians of all time and his 1987 concert film, Eddie Murphy Raw, is available on Blu-ray.
Most comedy specials premiered on HBO back in the day. These days, it’s very common to premiere a comedy special on a streaming service like Netflix or Max. That’s not to say that Eddie Murphy didn’t premiere specials on premium cable. His first special premiered on HBO in 1983. Paramount gave this one the theatrical treatment in 1987 and it’s still the highest grossing stand-up comedy concert film to date. Take inflation into account and it says something that a 1987 comedy concert film still holds the box office record. Anyway, this was my first viewing since renting the film through Netflix in December 2013.
Murphy opens up the show with a sketch taking place during his childhood in 1968. The children gather round to showcase talents in front of their family. Much to the shock of many adults in the room, Young Eddie (Deon Richmond) tells a not-so-nice joke about a monkey and a lion. An aunt and uncle (Samuel L. Jackson) applaud his talent. With that, the sketch segues into Murphy on stage at Felt Forum at the Madison Square Garden complex, presently known as the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
It certainly goes without saying that there are aspects where the comedy does not age well. Never mind the fact that comedy is subjective. LGBTQ viewers were offended by his language in Eddie Murphy Delirious. I haven’t seen the earlier special so I can’t comment on its homophobic contents, which the comedian apologized for in 1996. Better late than never, I suppose. What I can say is that I would most likely have been offended, too. His Bill Cosby material, on the other hand, ages like fine wine. Murphy makes the transition from celebrity and LGBTQ reactions to discussing dating and relationships.
Murphy opened up about his material during the Dolemite Is My Name press tour in 2019 when talking to Jason Zinoman of The New York Times. He’s had time to mature and think back on his 1980s comedy material. It is not a surprise to see Murphy cringe at some of the material, especially his performance in this one. It’s much like Seth Rogen in recent years when it comes to his earlier film collaborations with Judd Apatow.
For when Murphy is flipping channels on television and stumbles across Raw, he cringes. The cocky jokes about women and relationships remind him, he said, of a breakup he was going through back then. “I was a young guy processing a broken heart, you know, kind of an asshole,” he said.
There are a substantial amount of f bombs in the Murphy film. Where he broke the Scarface record, Goodfellas would break his record.
Eddie Murphy was one of the hottest tickets in comedy in the 1980s and while he puts on a show in Eddie Murphy Raw, there’s a good amount that doesn’t age well in 2024.
DIRECTOR: Robert Townsend
WRITER: Eddie Murphy
SKETCHES WRITTEN BY: Eddie Murphy and Keenen Ivory Wayans
Paramount released Eddie Murphy Raw on December 18, 1987. Grade: 3/5
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