His much-lauded return to Saturday Night Live last week saw Eddie Murphy revisiting some of the most popular characters from his past, including Mr. Robinson and Gumby. In a new interview with CBS Sunday Morning, the comedian is taking another look back — but this time, it’s at some of the problematic jokes that haven’t aged so well.
In a conversation with CBS’s Tracy Smith, the 58-year-old star was asked to reflect on homophobic jokes he included in his ‘80s stand-up routines, including a bit about having “nightmares about gay people” in 1983’s Delirious. While Murphy told Smith that he still finds “some” of his old material to be funny, not everything has held up.
“Some of it, I cringe when I watch," he admitted. "I'm like, oh my God, I can't believe I said that!"
He added that he was unfazed, at the time, when his jokes about AIDS and gay people received backlash.
“In the moment, you kind of was like, hey, it is what it is, you know?" he told Smith.
In the years since, however, the father of 10 has expressed remorse for this tone-deaf humor. In 1996, he released a statement saying that he “deeply regrets any pain all this has caused.”
“Just like the rest of the world, I am more educated about AIDS in 1996 than I was in 1981,” he said of his early comedy. “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.”
Speaking to Smith, the star of Trading Places and Dolemite is My Name admitted that, despite the “cringey” material, he sees it as a product of both his age and the less progressive culture at the time.
"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."
The comedy legend told the New York Times earlier this year that he was “a young guy processing a broken heart, you know, kind of an a*****e” at the time of his 1987 special, Raw.
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