Edward Regan Murphy was born April 3, 1961 and is an American actor, comedian, writer, and singer. He rose to fame on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, for which he was a regular cast member from 1980 to 1984.
Murphy was born in Brooklyn, New York City and raised in the borough’s Bushwick neighborhood. His mother, Lillian (Laney), was a telephone operator, and his father, Charles Edward Murphy (1940–1969), was a transit police officer and an amateur actor and comedian.
When Murphy’s single mother became ill, the eight-year-old Murphy and his elder brother Charlie lived in foster care for one year. In interviews, Murphy has said his time in foster care was influential in developing his sense of humor. Later, he and his brother were raised in Roosevelt, New York, by his mother and stepfather Vernon Lynch, a foreman at an ice cream plant.
When Murphy was 15 he listened to Richard Pryor’s comedy album That Nigger’s Crazy, which inspired his decision to become a comedian. As a child, Murphy developed playing multiple characters in imitation of his acting hero Peter Sellers. Other early influences included Bill Cosby, Redd Foxx, Robin Williams, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, and Charlie Chaplin.
On July 9, 1976, the date with which Murphy marks the beginning of his career, he performed in a talent show at the Roosevelt Youth Center, doing an impersonation of singer Al Green as Green’s song “Let’s Stay Together” played. This led to work at other clubs within walking distance, and then late-night jobs at locations that required him to commute by train. To do this he secretly skipped school, and after his mother discovered this at the end of his senior year, he was required to attend summer school.
In 1982, Murphy made his big screen debut in the film 48 Hrs. The following year, Murphy starred in Trading Places. The movie marked the first of Murphy’s collaborations with director John Landis, who also directed Murphy in Coming to America (1988) and Beverly Hills Cop III (1994). Murphy appeared in Best Defense (1984), co-starring Dudley Moore.
Murphy starred in the successful action comedy film Beverly Hills Cop (1984). The film was Murphy’s first solo leading role.
Murphy starred in the supernatural comedy The Golden Child (1986). Not long afterward, he reprised his role of Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop II (1987). It was a box-office success, grossing almost $300 million worldwide.
Murphy followed with a series of successful family-friendly movies like Mulan (1998), Dr. Dolittle (also 1998) and its 2001 sequel, the Shrek series, Daddy Day Care (2003), and The Haunted Mansion (also 2003), along with Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000).
In 2007, Murphy was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As a result of Viacom’s acquisition of DreamWorks, Paramount distributed his other 2007 releases: Norbit and Shrek the Third. He starred in the films Meet Dave (2008) and Imagine That (2009) for Paramount Pictures.
Murphy co-starred in Tower Heist (2011) and in the drama Mr. Church (2016). In October 2019, Murphy produced and starred in Dolemite Is My Name as Rudy Ray Moore. In December 2019, Murphy returned to Saturday Night Live to promote Dolemite; this was his first time hosting since 1984. His hosting duties received overwhelming acclaim from audiences and critics alike, making it the highest watched episode since 2008 when Tina Fey played Sarah Palin.
In 2019, it was announced that Murphy and most of the cast will be reprising their roles in the Coming to America sequel Coming 2 America, which will be released in March 2021.
Murphy has donated money to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, as well as cancer, education, creative arts, family support, health, and homeless charities. He has donated to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, and $100,000 to the Screen Actors’ Guild’s strike relief fund.