A revealing look at the reclusive Eddie Murphy in a new season of Jerry Seinfeld’s talk show.
As a big fan of the Netflix show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, attending the premier of its 11th season was a treat. For those unfamiliar, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is hosted by comedian and show creator Jerry Seinfeld. Like the title suggests, in each episode Seinfeld gets in a car, in this case a Porsche Carrera GT, picks up a fellow comedian and they get coffee together. Seinfeld usually picks an appropriately interesting car that somehow compliments the guest, who in this case is none other than Eddie Murphy. A legendary comedian driving a legendary Porsche getting coffee with another legendary comedian. If you like cars and you like comedy, this is a pretty big deal! Netflix screened the Eddie Murphy episode for a small theatre full of industry insiders. Immediately following the screening, Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy came out in front of the audience for a Q&A session. The question on everyone’s mind—is Eddie Murphy back?
What happened to Eddie Murphy?
Murphy was a mega-superstar in the 80’s and 90’s. As a stand-up/actor double threat, I practically grew up watching his movies. Our kids might recognize his voice as Donkey from the Shrek franchise, but to me he will always be Price Akeem, the African Price who comes to America to look for a Queen in Queens, NY of all places! Murphy has been somewhat of a recluse the past decade or so, with public appearances and interviews a rarity. His more recent films have been under the radar, and nothing like the comic blockbusters of the 80’s and 90’s. Will Eddie Murphy ever return to stand-up? Is he going to make Coming to America 2? Beverly Hills Cop 4? Is he still even funny?! Murphy made a much talked about return to SNL after a 30 year absence for SNL’s 40th Anniversary Special in 2015, but he didn’t crack a single joke. Disappointingly, it seemed like he wasn’t ready to make the world laugh yet. His return to comedy had to wait. Maybe tonight is the night? It is no surprise, then, that the auditorium tonight is packed and all everyone can talk about is Eddie Murphy.
“This isn’t a show!”– Jerry Seinfeld
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee started almost as a joke by Jerry Seinfeld himself back in 2012. Drive around, drink coffee and just talk? “This isn’t a show!” he joked in the Q&A session later. Personally, I’ve been a fan since the beginning. It started out as a web series on the streaming service Crackle. They are light, funny, and had cool vintage cars. The show moved to Netflix in 2017 which streamed Season 10 and just recently earned its 3rd Emmy nomination. Interestingly enough, Jerry’s other well-known series, Seinfeld, lasted 9 seasons. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is on it’s 11th!
The perfect car.
In this episode, as with most of the others, Jerry drives up in a vintage car. His choice this time is the Carrera GT in Silver Metallic. His love of all things Porsche is well known, so Seinfeld enthusiastically drools over the details of the car. Seinfeld revs the 605hp V10 and it’s glorious. He lauds every single body crease and perfectly sculpted line. He points out the birch shift knob, which is a homage to the shift knob in the 917. I felt a little giddy when we cut to a Gulf Racing livery 917 screaming down the front straight of Willow Springs Raceway with Jerry in the driver’s seat! Oh cool, lets see the 917 do some laps! Alas, it’s car porn, but it’s car porn light… maybe even PG-13 car porn, because the 917 disappears as fast as it came. This is primarily a talk show after all, and we need to get to the talking.
This is awkward.
Jerry pulls up to Eddie Murphy’s house. Mirroring Murphy’s recluse nature in the public eye, and it plays like those first awkward moments when you haven’t seen an old friend for a very long time. We aren’t sure if we’ll have the same spark between us like we used to. There is a quiet tension, waiting for a smile, a joke, his signature laugh, something to let us know that he’s still the same Eddie Murphy we all find hilarious and familiar.
That’s the beauty of riding in cars. Being enclosed in a tight space with nowhere to go and little distractions, we are forced to deal with each other and all the potential awkwardness that ensues. Luckily, Seinfeld is a seasoned talk show host. As they reminisce about their shared beginnings in stand-up comedy—they once featured at the same comedy club on the same bill in the 70’s—Eddie’s wall begins to come down and he eventually opens up about his past, his family, and their shared love of stand-up. Jerry is a legend in his own right, and Murphy can identify with that kind of pressure. By the time they are sitting down at an LA local diner for coffee, the tension disappears.
These are old friends catching up, making each other laugh. There are many genuinely hilarious moments and some surprisingly sweet moments as well. I can’t help but think how surreal it must be for the patrons in that diner to see these two comic superstars walk in and just have a cup of coffee like regular people. In the Q&A Jerry states that one of the things he loves most about being a comedian is being with other comedians after a show at a diner, cracking each other up, laughing at jokes that only they might find funny. The show is his attempt to capture those moments, and it works.
Is this the real Eddie Murphy?
Unlike the traditional late night talk shows where celebrities are there to promote their latest endeavor, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee feels sincere. Not every joke lands perfectly, there’s no pre-filmed segment, Jerry doesn’t check his cue cards to make sure he hits all the bullet points that some publicist wants him to hit on. It’s the casual nature of the show that makes it feel natural. It feels like we are perhaps meeting the real Eddie Murphy, or at least something closer to it than before.
Overall, it is a very satisfying episode, both for current fans of the show, and for those wondering if Eddie Murphy will return to showbiz. While cruising Los Angeles in the Carrera GT, Jerry asks Eddie if he would ever come back to stand-up. It’s the question most asked of him, and Eddie answers it with some real thought behind it. This is a question he takes seriously and with real consideration.
One more thing…
During the Q&A, the audience gets an even more revealing answer to those burning questions. Will there be a Coming To America 2? “Yes”, says Murphy. In fact, he is producing and starring in it and most of the cast will be back for the sequel. Apparently James Earl Jones has already read the script and Eddie goes into full James Earl Jones impression mode and makes a comment about a hilariously inappropriate line in the script. Seinfeld is in tears and the audience is eating it up. As an added surprise, the theater darkens once again. We are treated to an unveiling of an unreleased trailer for the next Eddie Murphy movie. I won’t spoil that for you here, but I’m sure it will be debuting online soon. As the event comes to a close and the comic legends leave the stage, the crowd is off their seats in a standing ovation. It does indeed sound like Eddie Murphy is back!
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee premiers on July 19th on Netflix.