Tonight's TV Tribute Reminds Us Why Eddie Murphy Still Rules

If Spike's televised tribute doesn't jog your memory about the groundbreaking comedian's enduring genius, these three classic clips should do the trick.

Photo: Everett Collection

If you looked solely at Eddie Murphy's résumé since, say, 1990, you might wonder why a television network would choose to honor him with a star-studded two-hour tribute, as Spike will do tonight. Sure, the 51-year-old boasts a number of megahits since the Reagan era, having lent his talents to The Nutty Professor, Mulan, and the Shrek franchise. But he also starred in Vampire in Brooklyn. And Holy Man. And The Adventures of Pluto Nash. And Imagine That. And A Thousand Words. Apart from his deserving Oscar nod for the 2006 musical hit Dreamgirls and an assortment of other inspired moments, few actors have infuriated critics more in the past two decades than Eddie Murphy.

And yet we are totally down with Eddie Murphy: One Night Only, Spike's two-hour lovefest. Despite the man's missteps—Beverly Hills Cop III, in particular, still haunts us—we'll never forget the genius he frequently displayed during the first act of his career. And we're not alone: Spike's nostalgic high-five to the dude whose girlfriend famously just wanted to party all the time features praise from Samuel L. Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, and Adam Sandler, among others.

That Spike picked the 30th anniversary of Murphy's big-screen debut in the always watchable 48 Hrs. as its excuse to honor the groundbreaking comic actor is perfectly logical, although, frankly, we'd still tell you to tune in if the network had pegged its celebration to the 31st anniversary of the "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood" sketches from his bar-setting stint on Saturday Night Live, or any other high points from his 1980s heyday. That's because Spike's special is a vital part of our patented four-step process designed to cleanse your memory of all things Norbit and remind you why Eddie Murphy will forever get a free pass, no matter how many fat suits he puts on. Here are the other three steps:

"White Like Me"

In this ridiculous 1984 SNL short from his lone guest-hosting appearance, Eddie spends a day in whiteface and utters the unforgettable line, "What a silly Negro."

Family Cookout

Murphy's undeniably offensive-yet-undeniably brilliant 1983 stand-up special Delirious contains no end of quotable lines, including pretty much every one he delivers in this Cosbyesque 12-minute segment about backyard barbecuing.


Sexual Chocolate

Our "Eddie Murphy Is a Genius" refresher course ends with this perfectly goofy bit from the great 1988 comedy Coming to America. To paraphrase Jackson Heights' own Randy Watson, give yourself a hand for completing this important four-step process and, while you're in the clapping mood, give a big round of applause for a fake band with the best name ever.


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