For a few years there in the early ’80s, few performers—never mind comics—had the kind of duende that Eddie Murphy radiated. He was bigger than TV, more than just a comedian—attractive, charming, bright, arrogant—he was a star. Before a lot of us kids at the time wanted to be like Mike, we dreamed of being Eddie. Murphy didn’t have Richard Pryor’s rage or tenderness—he’s never delivered a performance like Pryor did in Blue Collar—but he was a crack mimic, and he invited us to join him, even the white audience he was teasing. Above all, Murphy was in control.
With magnificent fame, Murphy’s stand-up curdled into something mean-spirited and forgettable, and soon his winning streak at the box office came to an end, too. That’s when Peter Richmond caught up with him—during the filming of the romantic comedy Boomerang. Richmond’s profile was originally published in the July 1992 issue of GQ and is reprinted here with the author’s permission. Check out this intimate look at a mid-career Eddie Murphy and find out why fame, for him, had become a drag.