Eddie Murphy knows how to learn from his mistakes.
Fresh off his SNL return, Murphy sat down with Tracy Smith on CBS Sunday Morning to talk about his Golden Globe-nominated Netflix movie Dolemite is My Name when the host casually asked him about how he felt about the homophobic comments he made in his 1983 comedy special, Delirious. He told Smith,
“Some of it. Some of it, I cringe when I watch. I’m like, oh my God, I can’t believe I said that!”
Throughout Delirious, Eddie made homophobic jokes, called gay people the f-word, and “joked” that AIDS could be transmitted through kissing.
Even though Murphy wouldn’t make jokes like that today, he let Smith know that he doesn’t exactly regret saying them.
“I’ve seen stuff that I’ll go, like, oh, that’s, ooh, yeah, you’ll get a joke that’s cringey. But that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate it. I still appreciate it. And I’m looking at it within the context of the times, you know. And I’m going, okay, I’m a kid, saying that.”
Murphy admitting that his words were hurtful is a breath of fresh air but it’s not the first time the comedian took responsibility for his hurtful comments.
In 1996, Murphy made a statement condoning his language in Delirious.
“I deeply regret any pain all this has caused. Just like the rest of the world, I am more educated about AIDS in 1996 than I was in 1981. I think it is unfair to take the words of a misinformed 21-year-old and apply them to an informed 35-year-old man. I know how serious an issue AIDS is the world over. I know that AIDS isn’t funny. It’s 1996 and I’m a lot smarter about AIDS now.”
There’s no denying that Eddie’s jokes didn’t age well and are deeply offensive. But at least Eddie didn’t let his ego get in the way of taking accountability for his hurtful jokes.
Because some comedians — *ahem* Kevin Hart — can learn a thing or two from Eddie.
Kevin’s new Netflix series Kevin Hart: Don’t F**k This Up revolves around the drama that ensued last year when Kevin dropped out of hosting the Oscar’s after homophobic tweets and jokes resurfaced. In one tweet, Kevin said he would break a dollhouse over his son’s head if he caught him playing with dolls.
Kevin handled the situation terribly and went on the defensive, painting himself as a victim, only “apologizing” after he decided to step down as host of the Oscar’s. He tweeted,
“I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s….this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.”
In the final episode of the Netflix series, Kevin tried to redeem himself, but once again he fails. Instead of apologizing to the LGBTQ community, he focuses on how poorly he handled the situation at the time.
“I missed an opportunity to say simply that I don’t condone any type of violence in any way, shape or form to anyone for being who they are. I fucked up. … Instead, I said, ‘I addressed it.’ I said, ‘I apologized.’ I said, ‘I talked about this already.’ I was just immature.”
Kevin still hasn’t learned how to properly apologize to the LGBTQ community and how to admit that his language was homophobic and violent. And it’s doubtful that we’ll ever get a sincere apology from him.
In a time when comedians get defensive when they’re called out for their racist, sexist, or homophobic jokes, the fact that a comedy legend like Murphy can take a minute, accept accountability, and understand that his jokes offended a community is huge. Hopefully, others will follow in Eddie’s footsteps.