It is impossible to deny the impact of Charlie Murphy in pop culture, even in the iconic shadow of his younger brother Eddie. Charles Quinton Murphy was the eldest of the Murphy brethren and a true rabble-rouser. From his short 10-month stint in jail as an adolescent to his True Hollywood Stories skits on Chappelle's Show, which spawned catchphrases like “f*%k yo' couch,” Charlie was street avant-garde to the core.
The six-year U.S. Navy veteran re-entered civilian life to a landscape where Eddie had blossomed into one of the biggest and brightest stars and celebrities in the film and entertainment universe. Charlie went to Hollywood to protect his younger brother from the wiles of fame, while at the same time immersing himself in its associated spoils.
"Cocaine was piled high on the bar like little ski slopes. And, of course, people were having sex everywhere, constantly," Charlie wrote in his book, The Makings of A Stand-up Guy.
It wasn’t until Chappelle's Show aired on Comedy Central from 2003 through 2006 that his imagination, timing and sincere, unique delivery sprang to life in America's consciousness, providing visuals to his excessive exploits. His comedic fodder created characters, scenes and laughter that will forever live in our hearts and memories.
Take the Charlie’s True Hollywood Stories episodes that explored his contentious yet violently affectionate brotherhood with singer Rick James. They partied hard in the drug scene, and Charlie’s cynical-meets-defensive conversation always humorously tussled with James’ manic egotistical need to shame him at every occasion.
From the depiction of the Murphy brothers serving James a beat down after destroying an expensive white couch with his muddy platform boots, to the hilarious smacking contest they had in a bar, those delicious sketches are golden.
His recollections of Prince’s dope skills on the basketball court with his gender-bending band mates is now the stuff of legend that reversed the uber-femininity hovering over the singer’s name. Aside from his musical genius, Prince is now looked at as the true baller than most had no idea that we was. Charlie Murphy did that.
His impact goes further as the writer of films like Norbit, touring stand-up comic and inspiration to those who feel it’s never too late to change your reality. In the shadow of the Eddie Murphy Raw era, Charlie continued the original Murphy way of pushing the envelope in a way so unique, it will never be replicated.
Charlie Murphy is a true gem that the comedic world has lost and his impact will be felt for generations to come. Next time you hear someone say, “What did the hand say to the face?” Remember that smack was from history, reminding you that a legend imparted knowledge the only way he knew how, by living off of his own deeply unique experiences.
Rest in power.