35 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Eddie Murphy Raw’ on Its 35th Anniversary
Happy 35, Eddie Murphy Raw! The groundbreaking concert film was released on December 18, 1987, inspiring countless young comedy fans to grab a microphone and strut the stage. In lieu of a birthday cake with 35 blazing candles, we present 35 incendiary facts that are the next best thing to seeing Murphy live.
Raw was directed by Robert Townsend, who earlier that year broke into the mainstream with his independent comedy, Hollywood Shuffle. The semi-autobiographical film documents Townsend’s attempts to make it as a Black actor in a town that said he wasn’t “Black enough.”
Even More Hollywood Shuffle Connections
Hollywood Shuffle was co-written by In Living Color’s Keenen Ivory Wayans, who also co-wrote Raw’s opening comedy sketch. That sketch takes place in November 1968 at a Murphy family Thanksgiving dinner, with Young Eddie getting his start telling off-color jokes.
Klump Family Lineage
And that bit foreshadows Murphy’s playing his own relatives in films like The Nutty Professor.
Young Eddie Would Later Pop Up Among the Huxtables
Young Eddie was played by Deon Richmond, who would go on to play Kenny, Rudy Huxtable’s boyfriend from The Cosby Show.
And Eddie’s Sister Got Fresh
Another future sitcom star, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Tatyana Ali, played Murphy’s sister.
Who’s That Mothereffing Uncle?
The uncle who enjoys Murphy’s naughty joke the most? A young, skinny Samuel L. Jackson.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Wayans
And because Keenen Ivory was involved, multiple Wayans family members show up in the film, including Damon and Kim (as an uncredited fan).
Keenen Hulked Out in the Delirious Suit
One last Keenen Ivory Wayans fact: He utterly destroyed Murphy’s iconic red leather suit from Delirious. Murphy told Jimmy Fallon that he dared Wayans to wear the suit for a night on the town. Dare taken, but “Keenen’s like 6-foot-4 with muscles so the suit’s busting off him.” That red leather didn’t survive the night.
The Purple Suit Is MIA
Murphy has no idea what happened to Raw’s purple paisley outfit. It has vanished without a trace. Maybe Charlie Murphy lost it to Prince in a pick-up hoops game?
Only in Theaters
Unlike Delirious, Murphy’s first concert film, Raw got a wide theatrical release in 1,931 theaters. The movie took in a (then) whopping $9.1 million in its first weekend. It won the box office that week, kicking Three Men and A Baby’s ass.
The Winner and Still Champion
Eddie Murphy Raw is the highest-grossing stand-up comedy concert film of all time. Still!
Besting the Master
Raw beat the previous record established in 1982 by Murphy’s mentor: Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip.
The First Ever Trigger Warning
The movie’s advertising tagline: “WARNING! You may be offended if you’re Black, white, male, female, rich or poor, Bill Cosby, Mr. T or Richard Pryor.”
Pity the Fool
Murphy spends some of Raw answering back to celebrities who were mad about jokes he told in Delirious. Murphy is downright scared of Mr. T, a man “who looks like he can whup some ass.” But he figures Mr. T isn’t the brightest guy on TV — some Jedi mind tricks could convince him that Murphy never told the jokes in the first place.
Bring It On, Mike
Murphy was less scared of an irate Michael Jackson. “I’ll f*** Mike up. Mike don’t weigh but a buck-oh-five.”
Gay men were justifiably angry about their treatment in Delirious. But Murphy wasn’t exactly apologetic in Raw, throwing around f-slurs and lisping his way through their complaints.
…And Later Regret for That Homophobia
Years later, Murphy expressed regret about the gay slurs, calling jokes about AIDS “ignorant.”
Yet the Guy on the Moral High Horse is… Cosby?
Another guy on the mad list: Bill Cosby. Cos called Murphy to tell him to stop working so dirty. In return, Murphy used Raw to bust out a flawless Cosby impersonation.
A distraught Murphy called Richard Pryor, who had advice about Cosby: “Do the people laugh when you say what you say?” Yes. “Do you get paid?” Yes. “Well, tell Bill I said have a Coke and a smile and shut the f*** up.”
Respecting His Elders
Murphy paid homage to his idol Pryor in Raw: “Richard was the one who made me want to do comedy. When I was little, I used to sneak in the basement and just listen.”
There Ain’t No Fight Like a Disco Fight
Murphy tells the story of talking to Dance Fever host Deney Terrio when a huge fight breaks out in a disco. Unclear if Terrio was involved in the fisticuffs.
Murphy Had Some Growing Up to Do
He said terrible things about women — and meant it. “I don’t regret anything I said,” Murphy told Playboy. “I was growing into someone else. Raw is like something I said that night. But that don’t make it me.”
What’s Between ‘Best’ and ’Suck’?
Murphy doesn’t think he’s the best stand-up comic. “I don’t think I’m a bad stand-up comedian; it’s just one of the things that I do, and I’m not the best. But Raw was the biggest stand-up movie in history. So I don’t suck as a comedian.”
The Nastiest Rating Possible
The movie originally got an X rating, a designation usually reserved for hard-core pornography. All for language, too.
It Takes a Lot of Edits to Get to ‘Uncut’
Though advertised as “uncensored and uncut,” Townsend confirms Raw underwent many revisions to get to R rating.
You Better Effing Believe It
Upon its release, Raw set the record for the most eff-bombs in history — 223 of those mothereffers. So how many were in the X version???
Say Hello to My Little Friend
The previous record holder was Scarface.
Raw’s eff-bomb record was eventually broken by Goodfellas, a less funny but obviously more profane movie.
The Party That Never Ends
Raw played in theaters for more than a year — 54 weeks to be exact. That doesn’t happen anymore.
Murphy was only 26 years old when he filmed Raw. The film was produced by Eddie Murphy Productions, of which he was the CEO.
Where’s the Vinyl?
Raw was the only Murphy stand-up special not released as a comedy album.
He Did the Right Thing
Raw's cinematographer Ernest Dickerson would go on to man the cameras for Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X.
He Was the Next Generation’s Richard Pryor
Kevin Hart, Chris Tucker and Gabriel Iglesias are three comics who say Raw inspired them to go into standup.
He Inspired Michael Che, Too
“I wanted to hold my own against the older kids and the adults. We always watched Raw and Delirious,” SNL’s Michael Che once told Judd Apatow. “I would perform edited versions of Delirious and everyone would trip out because I was so young and I was doing it.”
Actually, He Started an Entire Movement
According to Kliph Nesteroff’s The Comedians, Murphy’s “concert films Raw and Delirious inspired untold numbers of African-American youth to try stand-up, and by the early 1990s, they were seasoned professionals. Eddie Murphy had created an entire movement.”