Catching Up with Charlie Murphy
Don't ask Charlie Murphy if he has any new "True Hollywood Stories" to tell. He's past all that. Even though his hilariously hard-to-believe tales of late night pancakes with Prince and partying with Rick James were spun into sketch comedy gold on the now defunct "Chappelle's Show," he's moved on.
"There's actually nothing else I can think of that I think would make another good Hollywood story. My life went in another direction," said Murphy yesterday when I talked to him by phone.
The comedian -- and brother of Eddie Murphy -- says his future is on the Web. At least for now.
Later this month, he'll debut a series of short comedy sketches on Crackle.com, Sony Entertainment's entry into the Web video field. The site already features vintage TV, movies and shows created exclusively for the site. Contrary to some Web reports, Murphy says he hasn't been offered his own Comedy Central show.
The 10-part "Charlie Murphy's Crash Comedy" series, debuting on March 20, is all about the quick fix, says Murphy, who says he was interested the freedom offered by a Web production, but also -- citing the success of Dane Cook and Pablo Francisco -- by the direct access to potential fans.
"I don't need to wait for someone else to get a bright idea and say 'I wanna work with this guy,'" said Murphy. "I can do my own thing and drop it right on the Web and bypass you and your bright idea."
What comes next? Murphy says he's waiting to see if the "Crash Comedy" project takes off. He's also working on a book -- "Doing Time: The Making of a Stand-up Guy" -- due in bookstores in September. Then, he's still on the road -- last night he took his stand-up show to Las Vegas -- and hopes to work with brother Eddie again, possibly on the fabled next installment of "Beverly Hills Cop."
"I talked to him [Eddie Murphy] about "Beverly Hills Cop," said Murphy,
"and he says they're working on the script, but that he won't do a movie unless the script blows him away."
In the meantime, he's got a few other film projects in production -- one with notorious oddball Bai Ling, who he says is "a lot of fun" on set.
Read the full Q&A after the jump.
Liz: Tell me about "Crash Comedy." What should we expect?
Charlie Murphy: It's sketch comedy -- I always had ideas about jokes and doing them in sketch comedy form allows you to get help telling the joke, you know?
Liz: What's the format? Is it a half-hour sketch show?
Charlie Murphy: No, "Crash Comedy" sketches are all about two or three minutes so you can access the site, download it to your iPod or do whatever you want to do with it. It's short stuff so you get a quick blast and keep it moving. The first season is 10 shows over 10 weeks, we'll release one per week and then we'll decide whether we want to do more or not.
Liz: Who else is involved in the project?
Charlie Murphy: It's myself, Lance Rivera from Latifah's company and Donnell Rawling from "Chappelle's Show" -- Ashy Larry, he's involved. And who'd I forget? Richard Murphy.
Liz: What was it about doing something on the Web that attracted you?
Charlie Murphy: No handcuffs. You can do whatever you want. It isn't like TV where you can't say this, can't show that; this is the Internet.
Liz: I read online that you might have a Comedy Central show of your own coming up?
Charlie Murphy: That is not true. Unless they're going to surprise me with it, because I don't know anything about it.
Liz: So are you still out on the road doing stand-up?
Charlie Murphy: Yeah, I'm doing Las Vegas tonight. The House of Blues this weekend.
Liz: Still work with your brother at all?
Charlie Murphy: Not since we did "Norbit." I've been extremely busy and so it's not like I've been around the house enough to come up with a good idea. I'm always doing something and he's always doing something and when we slow down I guess we'll come together and do something again.
Liz: There's been talk of a "Beverly Hills Cop 4" and that you might be involved. Any truth to that one?
Charlie Murphy: I've heard that over and over. I just hope that it's true. When I talked to him [Eddie Murphy] about "Beverly Hills Cop" he says they're working on the script, but that he won't do a movie unless the script blows him away. So we'll see. When he gets a script that blows him away we'll see what happens then.
Liz: You're practically legendary for the true "Hollywood Stories" you did on "Chappelle's Show." Do you have one for us that maybe we haven't heard?
Charlie Murphy: Uhhh... no, actually I don't. The whole thing with the Rick James story sketch and the Prince story sketch -- I recounted my past, you know? -- and that's what I was doing. It's not like I sat down and said I want to come up with a great story about Rick James. That stuff really happened. So we was talking about this happened, that happened, and those stories came from that. But I have a book deal I'm working on and I had to tell the people at Simon & Schuster, "Don't get caught up and think I'm going to continue to spit out stories like the Rick James sketch; that I'm going to give you a hundred of those." That's impossible.
There's actually nothing else I can think of that I think would make another good Hollywood story. My life went in another direction. Come see my live stand-up show. I think a lot of people come to the show thinking "Oh, he's going to talk about Rick James," and then I get a standing ovation at the end of the show and I never mention Rick James, I never mention Dave Chappelle, I never mention Prince, I never mention any of that because I'm a real stand-up comedian.
Liz: So what else is going on? I saw you were working on a movie with J.B. Smoove -- "Frankenhood."
Charlie Murphy: I'm waiting to see what will happen with that. We're still working on editing it. I expect it to be funny, weird and like a "Twilight Zone" experience. It was fun doing that.
Liz: Speaking of weird -- I saw you worked with Bai Ling recently. Is she just nuts or what?
Charlie Murphy: She's a fun girl. We had a lot of fun working together and I wish her all the success in the world. She goes all out and when you see [us] working together, you won't be able to handle it.
Liz: Did you catch David Alan Grier on "Dancing With the Stars" earlier this week?
Charlie Murphy: No, I just heard he was on it yesterday. Maybe I'll catch it next week.
Liz: Today word came out that Grier's Comedy Central show, "Chocolate News," won't be renewed for another season. Any thoughts about that?
Charlie Murphy: That's part of the game. You know? You make shows and you don't go into it thinking "our show's going to be number one;" you go into it hoping to stay on the air. There are so many different reasons why you may get canned. It may not be that the show was bad, it may be that the word wasn't getting out fast enough and the numbers weren't there to support advertising dollars and you're off.
Liz: So are you on Twitter and Facebook and MySpace?
Charlie Murphy: Yeah. I'm on all of them. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, CharlieMurphyComedy.com, YouTube -- it's a great thing that all of those mediums exist because they give you access to the public. Whereas before if you weren't on "Saturday Night Live" or "Mad TV" nobody would know you exist. You watch my show on Crash Comedy, I've got like eight or nine comedians that are part of my troupe -- they go on the road with me and work on the show. And there are no big names in the cast except mine, so when people see these guys they think "That guy's so funny. Where's he been?" You know where he's been? He's been auditioning and getting passed over. That's where he's been. He wasn't born yesterday -- there is a bunch of talent out there going through that.
And that's what's so great about having all these new outlets on the Web. I don't need to wait for someone else to get a bright idea and say "I wanna work with this guy." I can do my own thing and drop it right on the Web and bypass you and your bright idea. Pablo Francisco is huge in Europe and the reason is that he uploaded some of his material to MySpace and it took off over there. Now he does 20,000 seats. He ain't from over there -- he's from over here and nobody else from over here said, "We're gonna take Pablo and promote him over in Europe." He did it himself.
Dane Cook -- the Web created Dane cook. The Web is what gave him his fan base. That's where he came from.
Liz: Except Dane Cook isn't actually funny.
Charlie Murphy: You know what? He may not be the most hilarious guy in the world, but he's one of the most successful comedians in the game because he went that route before anybody else. Don't underestimate the power of the Web. That's the reason Barack Obama's the president of the United States. He used the Web. John McCain thought that was for the kids. Well, the kids made Obama the president.
Liz: So, your upcoming book -- is that a memoir?
Charlie Murphy: Yes. I'm in the process of editing right now. It should be out at the end of the summer.
Liz: Thanks for talking to me today.
Charlie Murphy: That's what's up. And remember, no matter what's going down it can all be turned around. Keep smiling.
| March 12, 2009; 11:02 AM ET
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