Does Eddie Murphy now cringe when he hears his younger self bark, 'Faggots aren't allowed to look at my ass while I'm on stageâ?�? Maybe that mortification kept his raunchy 1983 concert film Eddie Murphy Delirious off DVD for so long. He shouldn't worry, because young Murphy immediately bandages the wound with an uproarious conjecture of Ralph Kramden's Brokeback Honeymooners proposition to his buddy Norton: 'Norton, my friend!â?� Murphy growls in a perfect rendition of Gleason's gear-grinding bluster: 'How would you like to fuck me up the ass?â?�
Shot for HBO at Washington, D.C.'s Constitution Hall, Delirious captures Murphy at the beginning of his trajectory to stardom. (That's the same institution that denied entry to opera great Marian Anderson but, as Murphy succinctly gloats, now gladly accommodates 'a 22-year-old black male onstage getting paid to hold his dick.â?�) Prowling the stage in a red leather jumpsuit like a panther dipped in candy-apple sugar, Murphy reflexively punctuates every sentence with 'motherfuckerâ?� while riffing on sex, blacks versus whites, and impressions of James Brown and Michael Jackson so uncanny they're closer to possession. While jokes about Reaganomics and AIDS don't age well ('I say what's next ' I guess you just put your dick in and it explodes!,â?� hardee har har), they're offset with more enduring hysterics, like a childhood reminiscence wor-
thy of a profane Bill Cosby in which a bathtub farting game ends in bloodshed, excrement and an anally embedded GI Joe.
The bare-bones DVD offers few extras, including some forgettable deleted scenes and a 30-minute interview with Murphy conducted by a fatuous and cloying Byron Allen. ('Give me your thoughts about Deliriousâ?� is a typically unprobing question.) But Murphy, now calm, seasoned and gracious, does his best to flesh out Allen's glib queries with insightful anecdotes, like how his first stand-up appearance was at the age of 15 at a Brooklyn bar talent show (he did his Stevie Wonder impression and lost to a guy singing the 'Miller Timeâ?� theme song), and how the only actor he consciously studied for hints on craft was Bruce Lee.
Murphy's rÃ©sumÃ© has been spotty ' for every Dreamgirls or Beverly Hills Cop there have been too many Adventures of Pluto Nashes ' and hasn't entirely matched the capacious potential preserved for posterity here in the warm amber of early cable video. What lingers after reviewing Delirious 24 years later is not the strength of Murphy's material but the tremendous breadth of his talent, and the way fate was aligning in 1983 for this brash young comic to propel him to much-deserved fame. On this night, the world was his motherfucking oyster.