Rodney Dangerfield Gave Eddie Murphy No Respect
Plenty of descriptors have been used to describe Eddie Murphy as a comedian – “loud,” “assertive,” “unfiltered” and “unflinching” chief among them – but “crestfallen” certainly isn’t one of them. That is, until Rodney Dangerfield rolled into town.
In an interview with Collider published yesterday afternoon, Murphy answered a few questions regarding his illustrious career in promotion for his upcoming Netflix film, You People. During the talk, Murphy told the familiar story of the first time he met the comedy trailblazer who was decidedly unimpressed with Murphy’s comedic chops. Murphy recounted how, when Murphy was a teenager already tearing up comedy clubs across the country, Dangerfield delivered words of “wisdom” which Murphy would later describe as “the worst advice I’ve ever received.”
Essentially, Dangerfield told a young Murphy that audiences would never go for Murphy’s dirty language and irreverent racial commentary. Dangerfield may as well have told McDonald’s that Americans aren’t interested in cheeseburgers.
“You wanna hear a great Rodney story?” Murphy begins with a smile. It’s a tale that Murphy has told on multiple occasions, including during an interview with W Magazine back in 2020, and he tells it with a convincing-enough Dangerfield impression to paint the scene. It starts in a comedy club which Murphy has previously identified as The Comic Strip in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Says Murphy, “I met Rodney Dangerfield. I'm like 16, 17 years old, and I'm getting ready to go up on stage, and Rodney comes, and he bumps me.”
It’s not unusual for a big-name comedian to bump the small-timers when he plays a regional club – what’s unusual is a high-school aged comic who thinks he can follow up a titan like Dangerfield. Said Murphy, “Rodney goes on, and he kills, and I'm like, 'I'm going to go up after Rodney.' No one wanted to go up, so I went up after him and I do my stuff.” In previous iterations of the story, Murphy has specifically asked that Dangerfield stick around to watch Murphy's set so that Dangerfield can give the fledgling comic some feedback. Dangerfield obliged, much to Murphy’s dismay.
“Afterward, Rodney is like, 'Hey kid, where are you going to go with all of that stuff, all that cursing and using that language…' Basically told me I wasn't sh-t,” explained Murphy. “I was crestfallen. My mind was blown. I was like, 'Rodney didn't like me. He thought I was too dirty,” Murphy lamented.
However, another comedy legend disagreed with Dangerfield’s assessment of Murphy – just a couple years later, Lorne Michaels would cast Murphy on Saturday Night Live, which would prove to be one of the most impactful decisions in entertainment history. Murphy effectively saved the series from extinction and started a run of insane TV, movie and stage success that cemented him as one of the biggest pop culture figures of the 1980s and beyond.
A few years after Dangerfield gave Murphy the historically misguided feedback, the new star Murphy found himself in the bathroom of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas when a familiar figure approached him and admitted his mistake. Said Murphy, “Dangerfield comes and stands right next to me. I look over, and he looks and says, 'Hey, who knew? Who knew?'"
Everyone else, that’s who knew. Have some respect, Rodney.