Published May 25, 2016Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.
By the time he released his first standup special, Eddie Murphy was a bona fide star. Nearing the end of his four-year run on Saturday Night Live, Murphy was coming off starring roles in two major motion pictures: 48 Hours and Trading Places. At this point in his career, the Brooklyn comedian felt like he could do no wrong, and on Delirious, he more than put that theory to the test.
Released on HBO in 1983, the 70-minute special begins with backstage shots of Murphy and his entourage, showing Murphy resembling something closer to a rock star than a comedian. After being introduced by L.A. soul-rock band the Busboys, Eddie Murphy enters the immense stage at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC dressed in his legendary tight red leather jumpsuit, while flashing his trademark smirk to the elated arena-sized audience.
In what would later be known as the most controversial piece, Murphy begins his set with a homophobic-slur-laden tirade about being "scared of gay people," describing what it would sound like if Mr. T and Ralph Kramden were gay. Although that bit — along with his ice cream joke ("You don't have no ice cream, 'cause you on the welfare") and a piece on hitting his girlfriend — are infectiously memorable (and quotable), such material doesn't really hold up, not because of the brazen insensitivity Murphy displays, but because they're simply not as clever or inventive as some of his later material.
Yet for the most part, Delirious is incredibly honest, confident and hilariously dirty, demonstrating Murphy's remarkable stage presence and his masterful control over the audience. Although Delirious never did live up to the cutting-edge comedy of Richard Pryor or George Carlin that came before him, there's no denying that Murphy clearly set the template for many big comedic personalities and even larger egos for years to come.