Spike TV's "One Night Only" homage to Eddie Murphy Wednesday night was mostly tribute, with Murphy friends and colleagues like Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Stevie Wonder, Adam Sandler, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Tracy Morgan, and Russell Brand singing the actor's praises as a comedian and Hollywood icon.
But there were also a few roastlike elements to the show as those who know Murphy best, and some who are simply famous fans of the star, took some gentle jabs at him.
Brand, who's never worked with Murphy and revealed that he'd only recently met him, drew the night's biggest laughs from Murphy himself when professing that he grew up with the "Beverly Hills Cop" star as one of his comedy heroes.
"I would forgive you anything, even as an Englishman … have all the Spice Girls, for all I care. Line 'em all up! There's not enough Spice Girls in the world [for you]," Brand joked, referring to Murphy's very public relationship and paternity battle with Spice Girl Melanie Brown (Murphy is the father of Brown's five-year-old daughter, Angel).
A recurring theme among many of Murphy's pals was the comedian's trademark leather suits, which led Brand to deem him "the Rosa Parks of leather trousers."
"Not one comedian can tell you they didn't look at Eddie Murphy and want to be like him," Jamie Foxx said. "Eddie Murphy did something that no other comedian did … Eddie Murphy told jokes so good he started looking sexy."
Added Chris Rock, "I met Eddie at the Comic Strip; he saw me perform … I met the real Eddie Murphy. I didn't meet Dr. Dolittle, OK? I met Eddie Murphy in a leather suit, like a green-lizard leather suit, with boots on. People think he used to just wear that doin' standup … (he) used to walk around with that … in Kmart."
And Morgan took the stage at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills wearing a knockoff of Murphy's famous red leather suit from his "Delirious" comedy special, while noting his own less-trim physique in the suit.
"I also walked in his shoes at 'Saturday Night Live' as a cast member," Morgan said. "And I felt honored to walk the same hallways as Chris Rock and Eddie. If it wasn’t for those guys … they held the door open for me, so I love them so much, and they mean a lot to me."
Samuel L. Jackson thanked Murphy for giving him one of his early movie roles -- playing a thief in "Coming to America" -- and noted that, since Murphy's character beat his character up in the film, he hoped maybe they'd co-star in a "Star Wars" movie one day.
"So I could pay him back with a lightsaber," Jackson joked.
And Wayans shared a story to illustrate how his longtime pal is as cool in real life as the characters he plays onscreen."Here in Hollywood, we'd go out to clubs. And it's different now, but back in the day, they wouldn't let brothers in clubs. They had, like, a two-brother maximum and that was it," Wayans said. "And I remember, we went to this club in Hollywood, and there were about 10 of us. And the bouncer was like, 'Sorry, I know you're Eddie Murphy, but I can't let all of you in. I'll tell you what, I'll let four of you in.'
"Eddie said, 'OK … one, two, three, four … you all go in, tell every fine girl there I'm having a party at my house.' And he left. And 10 minutes later, the whole club left. We went back the next week and there were 20 of us, and he let us all in."
In between the all-star tributes, clips from Murphy's most famous roles unspooled on a big screen, including his comedy specials "Delirious" and "Raw"; movies like "Beverly Hills Cop," "Trading Places," and "48 Hrs."; and his greatest "SNL" moments, including Gumby, "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood," Buckwheat getting shot and singing "Unce, tice, fee tines a mady," and "James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub."
Murphy also took the stage to sing with a star he'd first sung with on "SNL," Stevie Wonder. Murphy grabbed a pair of sunglasses from a friend and went onstage and performed "Higher Ground" with Wonder.
As with any tribute/roast show, the evening did have its awkward moments, some of which drew laughs and some that just, well, were awkward:
- Chris Rock recalled his early career days, hanging out with Murphy and his entourage in Los Angeles. The whole story is certainly not suitable for retelling here, but suffice it to say that it begins with a woman named Candy and ends with a member of Murphy's entourage handing Rock a "cookie jar full of penicillin."
- Brett Ratner, who directed Murphy in "Tower Heist" and was supposed to produce a Murphy-hosted Oscars telecast before both resigned amid controversy last year, recalled one of the superstar's more infamous moments when he brought out a microphone and headphones and mimicked Murphy's "Party All the Time" video. Ratner, a terrible singer by anyone's standards, tried to get the audience to sing along, and no one was laughing harder than Murphy.
- Murphy friend and "Coming to America" co-star Arsenio Hall mentioned tap dancing while talking about another celebrity tribute, prompting Murphy to interrupt him and ask if the two of them were going to tap dance. Though Hall and the audience began chanting for Murphy to instead go onstage and perform standup, he awkwardly insisted that they should tap dance instead. (They didn't.)
- Murphy's date for the evening, Maxim magazine model Paige Butcher, sat by his side during the evening but with a blank face throughout most of the festivities.
- And another Rock moment: "Here's my favorite Eddie story: Eddie, me -- way before I got famous -- Keenan, Arsenio, and 20 black guys, at the China Club. A white girl runs up and goes, 'Eddie Murphy, I love you! You're my favorite of all time! I've never kissed a black man before … please, let me kiss you! May I please kiss you?' And Eddie looks at her in the face and goes, 'Well, you can't start at the top, you gotta kiss one of these broke n---ers first.' True story! True story!"
Murphy wrapped up the night by taking the stage for a pithy thank-you for the tribute.
"I don't get touched easily, and I am really touched by this, everybody coming out and being so nice to me," he said. "This is really a touching, moving thing … I love all of you, and you all have been sitting here all this time.
"You know what it's like when you have something like this? It's kind of like, you know when they sing 'Happy Birthday' to you? It's like that, for two hours, somebody singing 'Happy Birthday.' Just keep hearing people saying, 'Eddie is so wonderful, Eddie, Eddie …' And even I am Eddie-ed out."