Eddie Murphy Honored as 'Comedian Genius,' 'Superhero' by Jeffrey Katzenberg, Chris Rock
It was a night of celebration for Eddie Murphy.
To honor the career and life of the actor-comedian, Spike TV gathered several A-list actors and some of Murphy's longtime pals at the Saban Theater on Saturday night for a special titled Eddie Murphy: One Night Only.
Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Rock, Russell Brand, Adam Sandler, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Brett Ratner, Tracy Morgan, Martin Lawrence, Arsenio Hall and Keenen Ivory Wayans were among the night's presenters.
As for the honoree, Murphy told reporters before entering the theater that he didn’t know what to expect inside and joked, “When you get an honor like this, you feel like an old person."
For fans who want to see the actor back on the screen, Murphy told the reporters about the future of his pilot Beverly Hills Cop for CBS, which he is currently producing with The Last Resort's Shawn Ryan. The actor said they are hoping to cast actor Brandon T. Jackson as Axel’s son.
During the two-hour special -- which will air Nov. 14 on Spike -- several of Murphy's longtime friends took the stage to roast the comedian. Wearing Murphy's famous red leather suit from the show Delirious, Tracy Morgan talked about how sexy Murphy was while opening the zipper of his jacket, leaving his chest in evidence, just like Murphy's character. Then Morgan played a video of current SNL castmembers Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen, Jay Pharaoh and Kenan Thompson talking about their favorite characters played by Murphy.
Next up was Murphy's brother, Charlie, who talked about growing up with the star. He joked that "Eddie's first words were 'mom' and 'dad'; the third one was 'TV.'" Earlier in the night, Charlie told THR, "This is an awesome experience for my entire family."
Charlie added: "I've seen him from day one, and 30 years after he is still making people laugh."
Sandler also spoke during the event, saying: "Everybody on the planet wanted to be Eddie." He added "He is funnier than us. He's cooler than any of us." Sandler also mentioned that in the past he said to his father that he wanted to be Murphy, to which his father replied: "You can't -- you are not black."
Sandler even emphasized that he followed Murphy's footsteps, "I started as stand-up comedian like Eddie, went to SNL like Eddie, hired the same manager than Eddie, and after that I fired the same manager," he told the audience.
Jackson also took the stage to honor Murphy, saying "he changed the course of American film history." Also, he mentioned how much Murphy has contributed to his career by giving him his first role in 1988's Coming to America. "If it weren't for Eddie, we might not have all the wonderful films that I've made," said the actor.
Rock, for his part, described Murphy as a "superhero," emphasizing how much he has influenced his career throughout his life.
Then the audience was surprised by the appearance of Stevie Wonder, who received a standing ovation with his performance. The singer sang "My Cherie Amour," and then Murphy joined Wonder on the stage to perform "Higher Ground."
DreamWorks Animation CEO Katzenberg also honored his pal, saying he met Murphy more than 20 years ago while he was at Paramount.
"From time to time, people use the phrase 'comedian genius,' but this is a guy who really deserves to earn those words," he said. "I've known Eddie since he was 18-year-old on SNL, and we started in an incredible partnership together."
"I have to say that my favorite character played by Murphy is Donkey," he told THR before the show.
Once Katzenberg took the stage, he told the audience, "When Shrek came along, I thought Donkey was great for him. I wanted him because we needed someone fast-talking." Then he continued, "We ended up winning an Oscar for the best animated feature of 2001."
Hall had much to say about his longtime friend and said there is nobody who can play multiple characters like Murphy.
Before the show, Hall told THR that the honor was really important, "I think that he will be surprised by how much he has done. I know it’s embarrassing and hard to get your butt kicked for 2 hours in a big auditorium," and he continued, " But he needs to know how much people love him."
Added Ratner: "He made me become a director, so one day I could work with him."
The special showed many clips of Murphy throughout his career, including his years at SNL, Delirius and characters in such movies as Shrek and Beverly Hills Cop.
The 51-year-old actor took the stage at the end of the special to say how much he was moved by the tribute.
"This is really a touching moving thing, and I really appreciate it," he said.
Eddie Murphy: One Night Only airs Nov. 14 at 10 p.m. on Spike.