It’s been a year of milestones for comedian Eddie Murphy. Shortly after celebrating the 40th anniversary of the comedy skit show that catapulted his comedic career, Murphy will soon receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
The 54-year-old comedian has long been praised for his unique brand of comedy that rescued Saturday Night Live when many believed the show was close to being ripped off the air.
Now he will be honored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for his stellar achievements in comedy.
He will mark the 18th humorist to receive the honor, adding him to an elite list of famous funnymen and women, such as Carol Burnett, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Ellen DeGeneres, Tiny Fey, George Carlin, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal. Murphy is the fourth African-American to be honored.
“I am deeply honored to receive this recognition from the Kennedy Center and to join the distinguished list of past recipients of this award,” Murphy said on the website.
The center praised the Beverly Hills Cop star as “the most commercially successful African-American actor in the history of the motion picture business.”
“Through his appearances on Saturday Night Live, groundbreaking stand-up comedy and work as a movie star, Eddie Murphy has shown that like Mark Twain he was years ahead of his time,” Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter said in a public statement.
Murphy’s career on Saturday Night Live and his performance in Beverly Hills Cop is enough to secure a place in comedic history for the star, but his career continued to flourish for many more years.
“Eddie Murphy has kept us laughing for 30 years,” Cappy McGarr, one of SNL’s executive producers, said about the comedian, according to The Washington Post. “He has had incredible influence over so many comedians who have followed him.”
Rock was even responsible for delivering a moving speech about Murphy during his brief appearance on Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary special.
Perhaps one of the most honorable things about Murphy’s career is his decision to be conscious about the impact of his comedy.
His impression of Bill Cosby is a highly praised part of his comedic resume, but when SNL producers asked him to revisit that act for the anniversary special, Murphy shot down the opportunity.
It was a move that supported Murphy’s stance against kicking a man when his career is suffering.
His decision to turn down the joke earned him praise on social media by former SNL cast member Norm Macdonald.
“He knew the laughs would bring the house down,” Macdonald tweeted. “Eddie Murphy knows what will work on SNL better than any one. Eddie decides the laughs are not worth it. He will not kick a man when he is down…Eddie Murphy, I realize, is not like the rest of us. Eddie does not need the laughs.”