Eddie Murphy picked up the mic for the first time in nearly three decades while receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center on Sunday night, thrilling the crowd with a mini stand-up set that proved he still has the magic. The first casualty of his signature wit: Bill Cosby.
“Bill has one of these,” he said, looking at the bust of Mark Twain with an embarrassed smile. (Cosby was honored with the Twain Prize in 2009.) “Did you all make him give it back?” he asked, before slipping into an impersonation of Cosby.
“I would like to talk to some of the people who feel like I should give back some of my f**king trophies,” he said to the delight of the sold-out crowd.
He continued for about five minutes, taking aim at Cosby, his own career and the nature of the prize itself. According to his pal Arsenio Hall, who emceed the ceremony, Murphy only decided a few weeks ago to perform at the ceremony, after declining to impersonate Cosby at the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live. He practiced Saturday in a hotel room with Hall and fellow comedian Chris Rock, who counts Murphy as his mentor and idol. “He made me who I am today,” Rock said. “He taught me about show business. He taught me about comedy. He taught me about white people.”
At the ceremony, Murphy was honored by dozens of his comedy contemporaries, from Kathy Griffin to Tracy Morgan and even new Daily Show host Trevor Noah. He was joined by his girlfriend, Paige Butcher, the mother of six of his eight children, who watched him receive the nation's top prize for comedy.
“This was a wonderful night,” he said on stage as the ceremony came to a close. “I love you all; thank you so much.”
Watch Murphy on his very first 106 & Park appearance, talking about his fondest memories of New York City, below:
(Photo: John Shearer/Invision/AP, File)