If you are expecting a Comedy Central-esque roast of Eddie Murphy in sister network Spike TV’s tribute to the comedy legend, you would be mistaken.
What you will get in "Eddie Murphy: One Night Only,” airing tonight at 10 p.m. on the cable net, is a serious lifetime achievement type of tribute, laced with laughter from fellow comedians including Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Arsenio Hall, Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan.
It’s the first-ever televised tribute to the comedy icon, and the show will take you on a journey from Murphy’s childhood through his iconic characters on “Saturday Night Live,” like Buckwheat, Gumby, Mr. Robinson and James Brown, which rocketed him to stardom in the early 1980s.
You’ll see clips from “Raw,” which remains the highest-grossing stand-up comedy film of all time, and bits from movies including ‘80s hits like "Trading Places," "Coming to America," "Beverly Hills Cop" and "48 Hrs.," as well as more recent hits such as "Shrek" and "Dreamgirls."
The program taped several weeks ago at Beverly Hills’ historic Art Deco Saban Theatre, dressed to look like a swanky nightclub filled to the rafters with revelers.
Here’s a taste of the proceedings:
"There’s not one comedian that could say he didn’t want to be like him,” said Foxx as he took the stage and went on to laud Murphy’s famous red leather outfits.
And then, not as svelte as Murphy was and still is, Tracy Morgan appeared in one.
"He’s my comic hero, but his real legacy is that he made comedy sexy,” Morgan said, before opening his red leather jacket to reveal what looked like a decidedly unsexy pop beer belly. "I walked in his shoes at ‘SNL’ and so did Chris Rock."
Murphy’s brother Charles talked about how as a kid, Eddie would watch TV and say, "When I grow up, I wanna be on that," and that at the age of 8 he was already telling world-class jokes.
Adam Sandler admitted he also wanted to be like Murphy. "30 years later, everyone still wants to be Eddie,” Sandler said.
After a clip from 1982’s “48 Hrs.,” you wanted to hear from Nick Nolte, but he wasn’t among the all-male cast of scheduled presenters, which also included Samuel L. Jackson and Russell Brand.
Chris Rock talked about how Murphy took him under his wing when he first to moved to L.A. "About three weeks in, I got my first white girl," he recalled, in another allusion to Murphy’s sex appeal.
Spoiler alert. The show’s highlight comes after an “SNL” clip of Murphy spoofing Stevie Wonder singing "My Cherie Amour,” and then when the lights come up, Wonder is at the piano and proceeds to belt out a rousing rendition of the classic hit. The crowd went insane. And Wonder went on to perform “Higher Ground.”
Then it was Jeffrey Katzenberg’s turn to pay tribute to Murphy, particularly his character Donkey in the Shrek films. "I have to follow that?” he said.
"No one plays multiple characters like Eddie," said Arsenio Hall, who also compared parts of their anatomy.
“Eddie Murphy reinvented the action comedy," said director Brett Ratner. “Without him there would be no Chris Tucker, no Chris Rock, no Dave Chapelle."
Martin Lawrence talked about how "Raw" inspired him and Keenan Ivory Wayans reflected on their times at the Improv in New York 30 years ago.
“What you have done is nothing short of remarkable," Tyler Perry said to Murphy. “You blazed a trail — you are brilliant. All the laughter comes back to you, a million-fold.”
After all the praise, all the memories, all the laughter and the songs, it was finally Murphy’s turn. "I don’t get touched easily, and one thing struck me during all this. I look like Seal,” he said. "There are people here I haven’t seen for years. It’s like happy birthday for two hours."
And for Murphy fans, the two hours won’t be enough, but it will be very satisfying.