Eddie Murphy Says This Unlikely Person Inspired His Return to Stand-Up and Comedy Movies: President Obama

One of the brightest stars in stand-up, Eddie Murphy, has been making us laugh for decades. However, the legendary comic isn’t as prolific as he once was. The comedian, who began doing stand-up in the 1980s, made his mark on television on Saturday Night Live. Eventually, Murphy enjoyed a long and successful career in film, between Coming to America, Dr. Doolittle, and Shrek, to name just a few of his hit flicks. He now stars in Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name, which was released in October. The movie centers around a 1970s comic Murphy has always respected, Rudy Ray Moore.

Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy attends LA Premiere Of Netflix’s “Dolemite Is My Name” | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Murphy is also considering a comedy comeback himself; he’s in talks with Netflix for a brand new special. But what inspired Murphy to get back into the stand-up game? Shockingly, Murphy told Entertainment Weekly in October that the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, had something to do with it.

Recently, Eddie Murphy, age 58, hasn’t been in too many movies

Murphy hasn’t appeared in too many films in the past 8 years: in fact, only two. The comedian told Entertainment Weekly writer Derek Lawrence the reason is purely human.

“I was tired,” Mulan‘s Mushu said in October. However, Murphy wants to keep swimming in the Hollywood shark tan, especially after starring in the 2016 film, Mr. Church, that flopped at the box office. Even though Murphy’s acting was praised, it wasn’t a good place for the comedian-turned-actor to stop.

Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy | Christopher Polk/Getty Images

“I didn’t want to end on Mr. Church,” he told EW. “I wanted to do something where, if I decided to never get off the couch again and just go do stand-up, it would be a nice way to go out.”

For Murphy, this meant following his passion project: Dolemite.

Eddie Murphy of ‘Delirious’ fame released his new movie on Netflix

For years, the Coming to America star wanted to develop the life of Rudy Ray Moore’s into a movie. Moore was an off-the-wall 1970s stand-up who used a comedic persona which he called “Dolemite.” Moore’s alter-ego even turned into a movie in 1975. This film became a cult classic, and Murphy fell in love with the screwball humor.

“It’s great to be in a movie that works and that’s funny,” Murphy explained. “That’s the only reason why I’m making movies.” After the crushing box office returns from Mr. Church, he was ready for his new challenge–a new movie.

“I want to be in one that people like, and it’s been a long time since I’ve had one,” he said. “This is a well-made movie and it’s f*cking funny—and that’s a good feeling.”

Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy on Dolemite Is My Name Set
Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock on set of Dolemite Is My Name | BG010/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

President Obama partially inspired the ‘Saturday Night Live’ star’s return to stand-up comedy

So how did Murphy get back into his comedy groove after so many years away? The iconic comedian traces it back to a 2015 award. That year, Murphy won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. For the awards ceremony, he had to give a speech–or, more on-brand for Murphy–deliver a stand-up set. And that’s a tough room, full of comedy greats.

EW’s Lawrence wrote that, “knowing that a slew of contemporaries would be at the ceremony,” Murphy went to the drawing board and “wrote new material for the first time since stepping back from the comedy scene.” it wasn’t the work itself, but the reaction from the event’s attendees that “blew him away.” One attendee, in particular, stood out: President Barack Obama.

“When you get that Mark Twain Prize, you get to meet the president,” Murphy explained. And Obama had demands for the comedian.

“I met Obama and the first thing out of his mouth, ‘When are you doing stand-up again?’” This is not what Murphy expected from the leader of the free world.

Barack Obama
Former President Barack Obama | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

“I was like, ‘Wow,’” the Dr. Doolittle star said. “Between that and the award, I was ready to get back.”

Murphy also described how being on the set of his Netflix film reignited his love for the art of comedy.

“When I first got up on the mic for Dolemite,” Murphy explained, “there were a couple scenes with an audience and I was improvising … they were laughing and I had flickers of ‘Oh yeah, I remember that sound.’”

We only hope Murphy keeps seeking out that sound for as long as he possibly can.