Why Eddie Murphy Isn't Changing His Comedy For Our Easily Offended Era

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name
(Image credit: Netflix)

It’s been years since Eddie Murphy made a movie with the kind of brash, irreverent comedy that made him famous. But he didn’t switch gears because he was trying to spare anyone’s feelings. In fact, the actor recently made it clear that he’s never going to change his comedic style just to avoid offending people -- and he thinks that his fans will understand why.

While promoting his new film, Dolemite Is My Name, the legendary comedian was asked about past roles, like an Asian character in Norbit, and whether he’s concerned about having to avoid backlash and outrage on social media about being culturally insensitive. Eddie Murphy was quick to explain that he is going into the next phase of his career unafraid:

I think if you watch Dolemite, it’s pretty clear that I’m not tiptoeing around anything. I’m doing what I’ve always done and I don’t even think about the time period we’re in, and how thin people’s skins have gotten or anything like that. I’m the same guy I’ve always been, and I’m just always going to be that guy, always doing just what I do. I won’t think, is someone going to get offended by me doing an Asian character? I just did the new Coming to America movie, and I did an old Jewish man. I wasn’t like, will Jewish people be offended? No. I’ve done it before and it’s funny. I tend to have only constructive thoughts when I try to do something creative. How do I make it the best that it can be? How can we have the most fun doing it? That’s as far as my thought process goes. Not who might be offended and who’ll get bent out of shape. Because at the core of what I’m doing, I’m not trying to malicious, so I think it’s not going to come off that way.

Though 21st century moviegoers may know Eddie Murphy from family friendly comedies like Shrek and The Nutty Professor, the actor made a name for himself by pushing boundaries early in his career. Films like Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop established him as a comedian who definitely wasn’t concerned with whether or not he was offending anyone.

Eddie Murphy’s insistence that he won’t change his comedic style to fit the times positions him amongst a growing number of artists who have expressed disdain for the concept of ‘woke’ culture. Some have chosen to remain unapologetic when it comes to creating offensive content. Others have chosen to leave comedy behind altogether, rather than deal with potential backlash. It’s too early to tell whether Eddie Murphy’s future projects will create any controversy -- but even if they do, it seems like he won’t be bothered.

In addition to promoting Netflix's Dolemite, Eddie Murphy is also returning to host Saturday Night Live tonight (12/21/19) on NBC.

Katherine Webb