As this year’s honoree, Murphy was invited to sit in a box seat while a who’s who of comedic talent took to the stage with their favorite stories about the star. They gushed, they praised, and occasionally they poked fun at Murphy, who seemed to take it all in stride.
The Mark Twain Prize is high praise for any comedian, but America’s love for Mr. Murphy runs deep, after decades of iconic movies (like Beverly Hills Cop, Coming To America and the Shrek series) have won fans of his wacky.
But before all his family-friendly success, there was a different Eddie Murphy: a comedian who was most famous for being shocking, rude, and blatantly homophobic.
Clips of Murphy bouncing around the stage shouting about “faggots” are all over the internet, but his most famous antigay tirade came from his performance in his comedy special Delirious. Here’s some of the more salacious bits:
Any comedian who has ever gotten a laugh has, at some point, made jokes at the expense of one subculture or another, whether it be based on race or social customs or gender or any other defining label. If the joke is funny, it’s funny, even if it is about you.
But Murphy used gay men in particular, for years, to bolster his career with ridicule that crossed far past just the tiresome standards of political correctness. There’s also the issue that some of those jokes simply aren’t funny.
Murphy has since apologized, and it all happened a long time ago. But Paula Deen admitted to using racial slurs at home and at work and she was kicked off The Food Network in a storm of public fury. Murphy simply issued an apology, and he is the voice of animated characters in children’s movies.
So it raises the question: in a culture like America, which is so quick to label people as public enemies and subject them to scorn, has the LGBT community forgiven Murphy? Or is it easier just to forget the entire chapter ever happened?