9 Things You Didn’t Know About Charlie Murphy

His legacy and comedy lives on.

By Claire Downs

It was reported earlier today that comedian Charlie Murphy passed away at age 57, in an NYC hospital. The beloved funnyman had been undergoing chemotherapy to combat leukemia. Charlie became a household name as a featured performer on Chappelle’s Show, where he entertained us with his amazing stories of run-ins with celebs like Prince and Rick James, during the height of his brother, Eddie Murphy’s, fame.

Many famous comedians took to social media on Wednesday to pay respect to Murphy’s comedic genius, and it’s evident just how much he meant to so many legendary talents.

With that in mind, let’s celebrate 9 little-known things about this accomplished comedian’s wild and fascinating life.

  • 1. He severed in the military.

    In his autobiography, The Making of a Stand-Up Guy, Charlie says he had collected enough misdemeanors to wind up in jail as a teen in Brooklyn. The 10-month experience was so eye-opening that when he was released from prison, he enlisted in the Navy the same day.

  • 2. While in the Navy, he worked as a boiler technician for 6 years, until bombings in Beirut convinced him not to reenlist.

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    After training at Guantanamo Bay, Murphy spent several years working on boilers for the Navy all over the world while his brother starred in blockbuster hits. But in 1983, when deciding whether to re-enlist, he saw a mushroom cloud over Beirut that convinced him to switch gears.

  • 3. He didn’t start doing stand-up until age 42.

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    In an interview with Vice Charlie Murphy acknowledge that he followed in his younger brother’s footsteps: “I was the brother of one of the most celebrated comics in history who made his name in the game 20 years earlier. So, that took a lot of bravery. It’s like, if Michael Jordan all of a sudden had a big brother who plays basketball and he’s good, too. That does not compute for most people. So, I had to have anger to do this because there were going to be people saying, “You can’t do this.” And when they saw the rage and anger, they got out of my way.”

  • 4. He served as a security guard for his bro, and was known to be very protective of Eddie.

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    According to Rolling Stone, Charlie once “gave an old man a heart attack on a plane” when he asked if Charlie and Eddie were a “basketball team.” He even went after hecklers at his brother’s comedy shows. This was, according to Charlie, how he lost his job as his bro’s security guard.

  • 5. He co-wrote the films, Vampire in Brooklyn and Norbit with his brother Eddie.

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    The Brooklyn-born bros collaborated on the cult classic horror flick and the blockbuster comedy which grossed $95 million.

  • 6. Eddie Murphy described his brother Charlie as the problem child of the family.

  • 7. The Prince story is real.

    One of Charlie Murphy’s most famous Hollywood stories on Chappelle’s Show was a saga about playing basketball against Prince, and Prince later making him pancakes. Both Micki Free (a character in the story) and Prince have publicly backed up this story in interviews since, plus this photo serves as evidence.

  • 8. Amy Winehouse referenced the “Rick James” sketch on her album.

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    Charlie Murphy’s “Rick James” sketches were so ubiquitous, that Amy Winehouse started off her 2006 cover of the song “Valerie” by saying “I’m sorry Charlie Murphy, I’m having too much fun.” As for Rick James, he apparently didn’t talk to Charlie Murphy for two years after the sketch ran on Chappelle’s Show.

  • 9. Charlie Murphy was a family man who ended every gig rushing home to see his kids.

Rest in peace, Charlie Murphy.

Watch Fab 5 Freddy interview Charlie Murphy about his scene-stealing role in the 1993 film CB4.