Charlie Murphy, a Navy vet and comedian who broke out from his younger brother’s shadow by telling outrageously true stories on Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show, died today from leukemia. He was 57.
The last time I saw Charlie Murphy performing live was in October 2015, while he toured with The Black & Brown Comedy Get Down crew that also included George Lopez, Eddie Griffin, D.L. Hughley and Cedric the Entertainer. Murphy looked frailer then. His most recent messages to fans on Twitter carried inspirational tones under the headings “Rise & Grind” and “One to Sleep On,” and fittingly concluded with his own bid to rest in peace.
One to Sleep On: Release the past to rest as deeply as possible.
— Charlie Murphy (@charliemurphy) April 12, 2017
His tour mates praised him again today.
— DL Hughley (@RealDLHughley) April 12, 2017
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Today we lost a #RealOne. @therealcharliemurphy was a bad man and funny af. He was honest and straight shooter, no BS kinda dude, awesome Father and family man. Had a gregarious laugh that would make you laugh, he stood on his own 2 feet as a man and as a comic even in the shadows of the brother of one of the greatest to have ever done it. Listening to Charlie tell stories of his life was truly one of my greatest past times. It's why I love this pic. Touring with him these past few years on the #ComedyGetDown was indeed an honor. Though I am sadden by your passing. I pray for all of your loved ones his children and that his soul Rest In Peace. Love you brother C.T.E
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This is a text message that Charlie sent us from a recent @comedygetdown Show @realdlhughley @cedtheentertainer " Great seeing you guys and living the magic last night. Great show brothers!!!!! ( I'm heartbroken at the passing of our brother Charlie . In relationships you never want to leave anything unsaid , our conversations before shows and after shows we all told each other and Charlie how we felt ! Keep his family in your thoughts and in your prayers and keep a space for Charlie in you're heart #Chingon I love you Charlie .#CHARLIEMURPHY 👊🏽
Charlie Murphy, born in Brooklyn on July 12, 1959, already had served time behind bars as a juvenile delinquent, then enlisted for six years of duty overseas with the U.S. Navy while his younger brother, Eddie Murphy, rocketed to superstardom as a comedian and actor.
When Charlie returned to civilian life in America in the mid-1980s, he caught the show business bug, too. Following his younger brother, Charlie caught bit parts in the films Harlem Nights, Mo’ Better Blues and Jungle Fever before shining in his own right by portraying Gusto in the movie CB4. He also executive-produced and wrote lyrics for the hip-hop group K-9 Posse.
But it’d be his co-starring turn on Dave Chappelle’s Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central, where Murphy told True Hollywood Stories about Rick James, Prince and other superstars, where he made his most memorable comedy marks.
Here’s Charlie Murphy telling even more stories with Snoop Dogg in this video from 2013:
As a screenwriter, he’d shared writing credits with his brother on the films Vampire in Brooklyn and Norbit.
As he really began pushing his stand-up career forward in the wake of Chappelle’s Show, Murphy told me in 2007 that he owed a lot to clubs like Caroline’s On Broadway for giving him the chance to figure out his own comedy path. “I had no act. I had zero. They said we want you to find something about yourself. Do not try to be funny. Do not try to crack a joke. Just go up there and talk about things like you’d talk to us. All the funny stuff came later, the punchlines, the callbacks and all of that.”
In more recent years, he’d provided voiceovers for TV commercials and video games, put on a sketch comedy webseries on Crackle, made his own hour stand-up special in 2010 on Comedy Central, and played Vic on the Adult Swim series Black Jesus. This past year, he’d appeared in multiple episodes as a prison guard in the Starz series, Power.
Rest in Peace, Charlie Murphy.