Eddie Murphy can admit that some of his jokes from the ’80s just don’t hit.
In an interview with CBS This Morning, the famed actor and comedian reflected on some of his old homophobic jokes with reporter Tracy Smith.
“Some of it, I cringe when I watch,” Murphy said. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I said that!’”
It was a refreshing amount of humility from a comedian, particularly as high-profile comics wring their hands over “cancel culture” (while still booking comedy club gigs and scoring standup specials and Netflix documentaries).
Smith was referring to jokes he made about the gay community when he was in his early 20s. In one bit from his massively successful 1983 standup Delirious, Murphy quipped about having “nightmares about gay people.”
This isn’t the first time Murphy has addressed his homophobic jokes. In 1996, while appearing in the blockbuster family film The Nutty Professor, Murphy issued a statement apologizing for any pain he had caused. He blamed the jokes on being young and “misinformed” about AIDS.
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“Just like the rest of the world, I am more educated about AIDS in 1996 than I was in 1981,” Murphy said (h/t Yahoo Entertainment). “I think it is unfair to take the words of a misinformed 21-year-old and apply them to an informed 35-year-old man. I know how serious an issue AIDS is the world over. I know that AIDS isn’t funny. It’s 1996 and I’m a lot smarter about AIDS now.”
But while Murphy may take pause at the jokes now, he also told Smith he had “no regrets” about the jokes, and still finds a few of them to be funny.
“I’ve seen stuff that I’ll go, like, oh, that’s, ooh, yeah, you’ll get a joke that’s cringey,” Murphy said. “But that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate it. I still appreciate it. And I’m looking at it within the context of the times, you know. And I’m going, OK, I’m a kid, saying that.”
Look—again—it may not seem like much in the way of contrition, but it’s miles beyond what some comics (hint: rhymes with Seven Shart) are capable of. Growth, it (sometimes) happens!
All eyes are back on Murphy now after he mounted what some might call a comeback in 2019. (Murphy—a man who has nothing if not staying power—joked with Smith, “every 10 years or so I launch a big ‘comeback,’ I’ve been doing that for the past 40 years.”) His latest film, Dolemite Is My Name, has generated two Golden Globe nominations (Best Musical or Comedy Picture, and Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for Murphy). His recent stint on Saturday Night Live also garnered rave reviews—and served to remind audiences just how much funnier Murphy is than your average hugely-successful primetime comics.
To cap it all off, the Critics Choice Association announced Monday it will honor Murphy with a Lifetime Achievement Award at their 25th Annual awards ceremony.
“Eddie Murphy is the most commercially successful African American actor in the history of the motion picture business and is one of the industry’s top-five box-office performers overall,” a statement from the CCA read, adding that Murphy was “on the very short list of actors” who have amassed multiple $100 million-grossing films over the last 30 years.