It feels like we’ve been on the cusp of a major Eddie Murphy resurgence for more than a year now, kicked off by his star turn in Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name, and followed by an Emmy-winning Saturday Night Live return that reminded audiences that, when he’s in the mood, few comic performers can be more electric or fascinating to watch. But the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to stall that build-up of interest on Murphy’s part (and the release of his Coming 2 America, which was delayed multiple months before coming out this week), derailing not just his re-emergence into film, but also to his first passion: Stand-up comedy.
But not forever: Murphy appeared this week on Kevin Hart’s Comedy Gold Minds podcast, promoting Coming 2 America, and confirming that, yes: He still intends to get back up on stage. Here’s Murphy talking about the grand plan with Hart, including his assertion that he’ll be back in the game as soon as it’s actually viable to do so:
My plan was to do Dolemite, Saturday Night Live, Coming 2 America, and then do stand up. And then the pandemic hit, and it shut the whole shit down. Then I was going—the whole time last year I would have been out working on my act trying to get my shit right, and then the whole thing shut down. Hey, when the pandemic is over and it’s safe for everybody to go out and do it, then the plan is to do it.
Of course, the paradox of Murphy’s stand-up career is that it hasn’t existed, in any real form, for more than 30 years. His second theatrical special, Raw, came out in 1987, and essentially marked the end of Murphy’s stand-up career—going out on top by becoming the most successful stand-up film of all time. (Less so, in terms of some of the homophobic and misogynistic content on display.) As his movie career expanded, Murphy left the stage behind—to the point where his dips into live comedy, like a brief moment of levity when accepting his Mark Twain Prize in 2015, became the stuff of instant legend. At least part of the excitement surrounding the idea of him returning to the mic is that pretty much no one on the planet knows what the hell that’ll actually look like: Murphy has been so guarded, and so filtered—through films, through publicists, through his own reticence to engage with the public for years—that it’s very difficult to know what’s going to come out of his mouth in that most immediate of settings. As it stands, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens—once the pandemic lifts.