Eddie Murphy Delirious (1983)

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Bruce Gowers directs Eddie Murphy, a red leather jumpsuit and a microphone in this feature length stand up stage show.

Am I going to touch the controversial first 10 minutes of this stand up special with a barge pole? Can you justify a major Hollywood star opening to a sell out adoring crowd with the line “I got rules. Faggots aren’t allowed to look at my ass while I’m onstage?” And then go on to talk, at length, insensitively about homosexuals, AIDS, hitting your girlfriend and the like without any ironic detachment or satirical intent? Eddie Murphy… a young comic, at the height of his stardom, playing to an unenlightened crowd in an unenlightened decade as a raunchy, say anything, turn up in cock enhancing red leather jump suit megastar… let’s just say it was an exaggerated reflection of working class hetero-normative attitudes of the time and get past it. Would I use the same justification for Bernard Manning’s racism? No. Why? That seemed to come from a genuinely hateful place and as time moved on Manning stuck to his guns. Even five years after its release Delirious became difficult to rent and impossible to buy. I remember videoshops in the 90s made you leave a deposit on top of the overnight fee the VHS became such a rarity. Clearly Murphy evolved in his attitudes towards gays and women, suppressed the film and restricted us from experiencing the remaining hour (a brilliant hour of mimicry, act outs and blistering over confidence). His next stand up feature Raw… though equally sexually aggressive, eased up on the immature playground hate speech and became more playful. This is a hot young superstar (just 22… raised on the club circuit, already a millionaire and surrounded by an entourage of yes men) trying to out shock and out dazzle his hero, Richard Pryor. But Murphy is better than Pryor in his two specials… he’s more outrageous, more flamboyant, more honed. The Ice Cream Man is coming. Gunni Gu Gu. James Brown. These are the pinnacle routines of stand up comedy. The brash attack mode, the pure thrusting attitude. Delirious, after the historically tragic misstep of its opening salvo, is one of the finest man and mic shows ever filmed. And even in those now tough early routines, Eddie talks so excitedly about ass fucking you get the feeling he’d be well up for it if he could be top and the “faggot” was willing. Maybe he was working through some personal demons up there after all.

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