Funny is in his blood

Charlie Murphy at Dayton Funny Bone

By Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

Photo: Charlie Murphy will perform at Dayton Funny Bone Nov. 28-Nov. 30

For the past 12 years, Charlie Murphy has been using his standup comedy to kindle our happiness. During a unique transition from service in the Navy to working security for his younger brother, comedian Eddie Murphy, he appeared in several films and music videos in the 1980s and ’90s. Joining the cast of Chappelle’s Show thrust Charlie into the spotlight and propelled his comedy career to star status. He recently participated in “A Night for Richard,” an evening of A-list comedians honoring the late Richard Pryor in his hometown of Peoria, Illinois. He is currently in the midst of a national tour, with shows at Dayton’s Funny Bone from Friday, Nov. 28 through Sunday, Nov. 30.

After some opening discussion about what it would have been like if there’d been Twitter in the ’80s (“There would be a lot of people still serving jail time, and I’m probably one of them, don’t get me wrong.”) and how he avoids drama (“I don’t run into very much crazy because I know where it’s at and I don’t go there.”), Charlie and I got into the meaning of celebrity and the stirring power of comedy.

“You’ll have people tell you, ‘You’re the best. You’re the handsomest.’ Don’t believe any of that because that stuff is fleeting.”

– Charlie Murphy

Well, you have to believe a little bit of it! You’re a talented, attractive man.

At the end of the show, at the end of the night, I don’t care if I was ugly. I didn’t come to get praise for looking good, I came to be appreciated for being funny, and that’s it. – CM

And why is that important to you to make people laugh?

You get people coming up to you and saying, “Hey man, my life was dark until I came to this show tonight. I was in a bad place, and then I seen you, and, man, I feel good again. I feel brand new. Thank you.” I didn’t even know that person existed before the show. “Yo, you hit me in the heart just now.” That’s priceless. – CM

I’m always impressed by standup comics who put themselves out there in front of an audience like that, by how brave you all are.

I don’t consider myself brave. I’m doing something that I’m supposed to be doing, that I was born to do, and I don’t think it takes any bravery in that. But we had a guy the other day, one of the Wallenda family, [Nik], he does a high-wire act in Chicago. Two buildings, 50 stories high or whatever, up in the air, walking on a high wire [in the special, “Skyscraper Live,” that aired on the Discovery channel on Nov. 2, 2014]. And everybody watching it is going, “Wow, man, this guy is brave! I would never do that!” Of course, you would never do that. It ain’t in your blood. He can only do it because he’s not afraid, man. It’s not the same thing to him. He was born to do that.

– CM

And you were born to do comedy.

I was born to do what I do. Do I get butterflies before a show? Yes. There’s anxiety because you want to hit that first note, you want to get that first joke, get the crowd going and just start reeling them in. So you’re going to have that anxiety. That’s what was so special about [“A Night for Richard”] for me. I mean because I was working with the best in the game … on that list – George Lopez, Mike Epps, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin. – CM

That is quite the lineup.

And I got to be on that lineup because somebody out of that group said, “Charlie Murphy has to be on this show.” So that to me was a huge, huge honor to work with those guys. I felt like I was on the L.A. Lakers when they had Kobe and Shaq and won the championship. You know what I’m saying? To be on that squad and to be accepted and embraced meant so much to me. I’ve had two things this year that really put a stamp on my career as a standup and, up to this point, made me feel like a member of the community. One was at Radio City with Dave Chappelle. That was in August, I believe. And then I did this show with these guys. Man, I’m flying. So when you called me, I was laying down. What you doing now? I’m laying down. I gave it all up. So I got to lie down and drink some water, you know. Gatorade. It took a lot out of me, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. – CM

Will there be more of that in the future, performing with those guys?

The show went so good, we’re going to do a tour now. When we came together and did the show, it was a success. Everyone in this room has done a world tour on their own. Everybody in this room has their own fan base. But how powerful will we be if we all got together? Let’s do it. It’s a comedy event. Let’s do it. – CM

It’s almost overwhelming, that much talent in one show.

You know, Richard Pryor’s wife, she gave it up big time to everyone that was involved. And I was the junior guy. We was in the hallway, it was like, “Man, we got a lot of years of comedy. How long you been doing it?” Mike Epps? “Twenty-five years.” How long, Cedric the Entertainer? “Twenty-seven years.” How long, George Lopez? “Thirty-five years.” And then Charlie Murphy? “Twelve.” I was the only one there under 20 years. Everybody else on this show had 25 years or more. It’s noteworthy to me, and I’m never going to forget it. We are responsible for starting Richard Pryor’s statue, which is going to be standing in Peoria long after Charlie Murphy is gone. I had something to do with putting it there and paying homage to the king of what I do, and that’s great. – CM

We’re looking forward to seeing you in Dayton!

I want to give a shout out to all my fans in Dayton. Your boy’s coming back. We’re going to do it again like last time. You know how I do it. We killed it last time. We’re gonna kill it again. – CM

Charlie Murphy will be at Dayton Funny Bone, 88 Plum St. at The Greene, on Friday, Nov. 28 through Sunday, Nov. 30, with shows at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. For more about Charlie Murphy, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at To read more from Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin, visit her website at

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About Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

View all posts by Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin is a writer and amateur cartographer living in Dayton, Ohio. She has been a member of PUSH (Professionals United for Sexual Health) since 2012 and is currently serving as Chair. She can be reached at or through her website at

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