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Eddie Murphy Says Rodney Dangerfield Gave Him The Worst Comedy Advice

The “Dolemite Is My Name” star said the late comedy legend wasn’t thrilled with his early work.

Eddie Murphy can’t remember the best comedy advice he has ever received, but he certainly remembers the worst.

The “Dolemite Is My Name” star told W Magazine in a video published Monday that he once received some less-than-stellar guidance from comedy legend Rodney Dangerfield.

Murphy said he was playing a comedy club in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, when he was 17 or 18 years old. Murphy described himself as a “full of himself” aspiring comedian at the time, and asked Dangerfield if he would watch his set and let him know what he thought.

“Back then I was really dirty and did … edgy racial stuff,” Murphy said. “And it’s 1980, so it’s like this kid on stage doing edgy racial stuff.” (Murphy’s early stand-up, including his 1983 special “Delirious,” also included many anti-gay jokes and slurs that drew backlash.)

According to Murphy, Dangerfield basically told him the set was a bit much.

“‘Hey, kid,’” Murphy recalled Dangerfield saying while doing a solid impression of him. “‘I don’t know where you’re going to go with that, ya know, the language and the race stuff.’”

Murphy said the critique left him “crestfallen.” But clearly it didn’t deter him.

His career blew up when he was cast on “Saturday Night Live” two or three years later — and he eventually saw Dangerfield again, in the bathroom at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. 

“Rodney Dangerfield comes to the urinal right next to me and I look over and he looks at me, and says, ‘Hey, who knew?’” Murphy told W Magazine. 

Eddie Murphy performing a set on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1983.
Eddie Murphy performing a set on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1983.

Murphy seems to be aware of the criticism some of his early comedy has received. In 1996, he issued a public apology in San Francisco for past remarks about AIDS and homosexuality.  

He also told “CBS This Morning” in December that his early work makes him “cringe.”

“I’m like, oh my God, I can’t believe I said that!” he told the show.

Murphy also chalked up his more offensive jokes as being “within the context of the times” and that he was a young performer at the time.

“You’ll get a joke that’s cringey, but that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate it. I still appreciate it,” he said. “And I’m going, OK, I’m a kid, saying that.”

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