Charlie Murphy: Seven things about the comedy star’s life

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Charlie Murphy

Murphy’s comedy career took off in his 40s

US comedian Charlie Murphy, the older brother of actor Eddie Murphy, has sadly died of leukaemia at the age of 57.

Here’s a chance to look back at his life and career.

He’s known for his Prince and Rick James sketches

Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Story sketches on Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show in the early 2000s made him a star in the US.

In the Rick James skit, Murphy recounted how he got to know the Super Freak singer before James punched him in the face in Studio 54, leaving a ring imprint on his forehead.

In the Prince sketch, the pop legend challenged Charlie and his friends to a basketball match after a party – then made them all pancakes.

Murphy said both incidents really happened.

The brothers had a tricky start in life

Born and raised in New York, Eddie and Charlie’s parents – Lillian and Charles – split up when the boys were little. Charles was murdered by a girlfriend just a few years later.

Lillian became ill and the brothers spent a short period in foster care. She then remarried and her husband Vernon Lynch brought Eddie and Charlie up.

Charlie Murphy
Charlie said he never felt he was in Eddie’s shadow

Charlie was a troubled teen

He has talked about experimenting with drugs and having “tons of fights”. He once found himself with a gun held to his head in high school after threatening a classmate.

According to his 2009 book The Making of a Stand-Up Guy, Murphy received three years probation for robbing a driver at gunpoint, and in the final year of his probation was arrested for larceny, loitering and other misdemeanours.

He was then sentenced to serve the rest of his probation – 10 months – in county jail.

He was once part of controversial group The Five Percenters

The group, also known as the Nation of Gods and Earths, was founded in 1963 by Clarence 13X when he broke from the Nation Of Islam.

The group says black people are the original people of the planet earth and that black people are the fathers and mothers of civilisation.

Murphy explained in a Talk of the Nation interview in 2009 how he removed himself from their influence.

“I would question things. I had an analytical mind back then. And if you tell me something and profess it to be the truth, I don’t just accept it… because you said it.

“And that’s what I felt like when I was part of the organisation, like, you know, I was being told things, but the explanation beyond the explanation I was getting was not good.”

He had a varied career

His mother took him to all the armed services recruitment offices on the day he was released from jail in 1978 and they all turned him down due to his criminal record.

The Navy eventually agreed to take him after his mother pleaded: “You gotta take my son or he’s going to be killed out here.” He served for six years as a boiler technician.

Before he hit the big time, Charlie was also a screenwriter, a hip-hop manager and the head of security for his little brother – but was overprotective of Eddie became hot-headed when dealing with hecklers.

He later went on to appear in films including Jungle Fever, Night at the Museum and Lottery Ticket.

He didn’t start stand-up until he was 42

He said: “When I first started doing comedy, I was 42 years old and I was the brother of one of the most celebrated comics in history who made his name in the game 20 years earlier.

“So, that took a lot of bravery. It’s never been done before. It’s not a part of human reality. It’s like, if Michael Jordan all of a sudden had a big brother who plays basketball and he’s good, too. That does not compute for most people.”

Having a famous brother ain’t that bad

In a 2009 interview with Essence, Charlie spoke about his relationship with Eddie.

“I’ve never felt like I was living in anyone’s shadow,” Charlie said. “My life was what it was. I was always proud of my brother. He helped me tremendously, but we’re family so we were never in his shadow.”

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