Much has already been made of Eddie Murphy’s tentative promise to return to stand-up comedy on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
“I’m going to do it again,” Murphy tells Jerry Seinfeld while the pair drive around in a Porsche Carrera GT. “Everything just has to be right. You have to get up there and start working out.”
Since the 40-minute episode—by far the longest in the show’s seven year history—dropped on Netflix Friday morning, TMZ has reported that Murphy is circling a deal with that streaming service that is “hovering right around $70 million” for multiple stand-up specials.
Once the biggest comedian in the world, Murphy hasn’t released a major special since 1987’s Raw. But his potential comeback is hardly the only revelatory moment in his wide-ranging conversation with Seinfeld, which begins in the driveway of his Los Angeles mansion before moving through the The Rose Venice and finally the Hollywood Improv, where the two comics sit in the empty club and talk about the early days.
As Seinfeld tells it, he and Murphy started doing comedy in New York at almost exactly the same time. (He even digs up an old line-up card on which both of their names are misspelled.) While Murphy says his biggest inspiration at the time was Richard Pryor, Seinfeld talks about how he wore out his Bill Cosby record listening to it over and over again.
Murphy says he had a “strange relationship” with Pryor. “Back when I broke, the town was still doing a one black guy at a time thing,” he explains. “So when I showed up, Richard kind of had this—there was this feeling like this was the new one, so Richard kind of felt threatened.”
But that was nothing compared to the “weirdness” Murphy had with Cosby. Seinfeld is the first to bring up how “funny” it was that Cosby “felt he had the power” to tell Murphy to “work the way he wanted you to work.” He is referring to the lectures Murphy would receive from Cosby about using bad language or saying offensive things in his stand-up act.
“What crazy fantasy was that?” Seinfeld asks. “Even in the moment I thought, was he out of his mind?”
Shaking his head, Murphy says, “He had a weird thing with me that he didn’t have with other comics. It was mean.” For instance, he says Cosby would tell him not to talk about how much money he had on stage. “You should come and see how it’s supposed to be done,” Cosby would tell him. “You shouldn’t get on the stage unless you have something to say.”
“He wasn’t nice,” Murphy says of Cosby. “He wasn’t doing that with everybody, he was doing that with me specifically. He was shitty with me.”
Left unspoken is Cosby’s horrific criminal history, culminating in a conviction for sexual assault last spring. But the irony of Cosby lecturing anyone else about decency is an obvious subtext for the conversation.
Murphy famously declined to play Cosby on Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary special in 2015—prompting disappointment from comedy fans and an appreciative tweet from the comedian himself. But he did take aim at Cosby during the closest thing he has done to stand-up in the past several decades: his acceptance speech for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor later that same year.
“Bill has one of these,” Murphy said at the time, referring to the bust of Twain. “Did you all make Bill give his back? You know you fucked up when they want you to give your trophies back.”
He then treated the crowd to just a small taste of his Cosby impression: “I would like to talk to some of the people who feel that I should give back some of my fucking trophies!”
Perhaps there will be more where that came from if and when he makes his real comeback on Netflix in the near future.