Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, is a reliable gem for hardcore comedy fans. The sitcom legend cruises around town in gorgeous sports cars while shooting the breeze with some of America’s most beloved performers. Not a bad life. But of all the Comedians in Cars episodes, Eddie Murphy’s is the most entertaining. Murphy and Seinfeld, both from New York City, are longtime pals and their friendly, spirited energy leads to an unforgettable conversation with the elusive Murphy. He even whips out some spot-on impersonations.
Eddie Murphy Impersonates Mike Tyson, Tracy Morgan, Michael Jackson, and Sammy Davis
Everyone knows Eddie Murphy. The vivacious comedian made a name for himself on Saturday Night Live during the early 1980’s. His Gumby and Mister Robinson characters were crowd favorites. Simultaneously, Murphy’s stand-up comedy career was taking off. And so the rising star left SNL in 1984 to pursue the big screen, going on to act in major blockbuster movies.
Saturday Night Live’s “Gumby: The Gumby Story Film”
Eddie Murphy surprised the world in the well-received Beverly Hills Cop, an edgy action role which led to a lucrative franchise. Murphy went on to star in John Landis’ kooky comedies, Coming to America and Trading Places. In 1989, Murphy then directed and starred in Harlem Nights, alongside his own comedic idols Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. The personal project was reviewed terribly, although it earned big at the box office.
Eddie Murphy in Trading Places
Entering the 1990’s, Murphy was a hot Hollywood commodity. But aside from The Nutty Professor, his career hit a slump. This was notably roasted on SNL by cast members David Spade in 1996, causing a rift between Murphy and the NBC program that lasted for decades. Murphy is famously sensitive; he bolted from the Oscars after Alan Arkin beat him out for Best Supporting Actor. (Murphy was nominated for Dreamgirls.) Later, Murphy withdrew from hosting the Oscars over a personal issue.
David Spade on Saturday Night Live
During the early 2000’s, Eddie Murphy branched out into family-friendly territory. Through Disney productions like Shrek, Mulan, Dr. Doolittle, and Haunted Mansion, Murphy introduced himself to the next generation. And earned a pretty penny too. Which is lucky; Murphy has 10 children and shells out $51,000 in child support monthly to Mel B. alone. Murphy shares one daughter with the former Spice Girl.
More recently, Eddie Murphy has been widely recognized as one of our culture’s comedic pioneers. In 2015 Murphy he was awarded the esteemed Mark Twain Prize for Comedy. At the end of 2019, he hosted an excellent episode of SNL, which marked his first time seriously returning to 30 Rock in 35 years. It was worth it; Murphy won an Emmy for his performance as host. Also in 2019, his historical biopic Dolemite is My Name was released on Netflix to rave reviews. And next year, Murphy will reprise his role as Prince Akeem Joffer in Coming 2 America. (Due to the Covid pandemic, this sequel will appear directly on Amazon Prime.)
Saturday Night Live’s “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood”
Eddie Murphy on ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’
When Eddie Murphy joined Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, their connection was instantly obvious. Going way back, Seinfeld still has the set list from when he shared the stage with Murphy at a Chinese restaurant comedy show during the 1970’s! Both actors fondly remember those early days in New York City. Murphy recalls riding the bus from the public pool in Brooklyn as a child and teasing his fellow passengers, making everyone laugh. Each rider realized they’d be the butt of Murphy’s joke as soon as they reached their stop. But it was all in good fun. “When I got off, they clapped,” Murphy tells Seinfeld proudly as the pair rides through the LA streets in a top-down convertible.
Eddie Murphy’s Comeback As A Stand-Up Comedian
When they finally stop for coffee, Jerry Seinfeld says to Eddie Murphy, “I just love you so much and I always have.” And when he says it, you believe him. There is a genuine gratitude between two comedians who have truly made it. And the praise goes both ways, with Murphy calling Seinfeld “the funniest.” Sitting across the table from one another, reminiscing comes naturally as they recall sets at the Comedy Strip and $5 dollar covers. But it wasn’t always so easy. Murphy remembers bombing so badly in high school that the manager of the bar refused to pay him… so Murphy had to call his (angry) dad up in the middle of the night to pick him up.
Eddie Murphy also revealed some personal details. Obviously he was greatly inspired by Richard Pryor, but his other major idols include Bruce Lee and Elvis — hence Murphy’s colorful suits. And Bruce Lee, surprisingly, is an inspiration to Tracy Morgan as well. Morgan once explained this wild connection to Murphy, which Murphy imitates quite accurately. Thickening his voice to take on Morgan’s unique spout, Murphy says, “Growing up, my favorite was you, Bruce Lee, and Evel Knievel.” Seinfeld sees the invisible resemblance: “You’re all fearless.”
Eddie Murphy and Tracy Morgan
Back in the car, Eddie Murphy whips out his killer Mike Tyson impression: a high-pitched lisp. But between the easy one-liners, both comedians continuously return to an introspective discussions of the past. They’ve both been embroiled in controversies over saying the wrong thing, like when Murphy made a crack about Joan Rivers’ recently deceased husband. But “we see the joke in everything,” Eddie Murphy says. And Seinfeld agrees. Their banter takes a fascinating course, dipping between hilarious bits — like Murphy’s take on a coked-up Sammy Davis Jr. (“You know Satan is as powerful as God,” Murphy drawls in imitation of the eccentric entertainer) — to broader musings on the national comedic discourse. Or they just start geeking out over Planet of the Apes.
Eddie Murphy on Planet of the Apes
This leads to a discussion about Michael Jackson’s famous chimp Bubbles. “When Bubbles got a certain age, you couldn’t f*** with Bubbles,” Murphy says. “[Jackson] had him in a cage, like, ‘Don’t go over there, Eddie… Don’t go near the cage.'” Slipping seamlessly into a Jackson’s unique falsetto, Murphy starts to laugh. He remembers going to Jackson’s house a few times — and being extremely wary of the growling chimpanzee. Seinfeld and Murphy then stop off at the Hollywood Improv. Sitting in the empty, lit-up club, Seinfeld asks Murphy about watching Richard Pryor perform. But due to racist expectations, as Murphy puts it, “one black guy at a time,” tensions between Murphy and his personal hero were high. For a time, Pryor even refused to watch Murphy perform! “That was the weirdness with Bill Cosby as well,” Murphy added, revealing how the now-disgraced comedian was also threatened by the up-and-comer. Cosby even called Murphy up one time to critique his public demeanor. Seinfeld also agrees, heartily, that Cosby was a jerk.
Getting back into the convertible, the conversation turned away from industry secrets back to personal theories on stand-up comedy. Eddie Murphy says, “Once you made somebody laugh, you got ’em forever.” In response, Jerry Seinfeld wonders, “So why is it so hard?” But Murphy’s answer is direct: “Because you always want to f***ing be better… but the audience is just happy to see you.” And that’s certainly true of the timeless Eddie Murphy. Hell, we are happy just to see him in a car getting coffee.