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Classic stand up gets weak DVD


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By Benny Goldman and C. Warner Sills



Twenty-three years after it was one of the first HBO comedy specials, Eddie Murphy's long awaited DVD release of "Delirious" is finally here. "Delirious," which chronicles a performance at Washington, D.C.'s Constitution Hall in 1983 is raunchy, controversial and very funny. It shows a brash 22-year-old fresh off the success of an incredible three-year run on "Saturday Night Live" looking more confident than ever. His appearance alone, with the familiar red leather suit and shiny perm, is the epitome of early '80s cockiness. \nThe routine runs the gamut, covering topics such as homosexuality, women, singers and growing up. Murphy's best moments come when he is imitating the likes of James Brown, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder or telling stories about his childhood. Bits about getting excited for the ice cream man and the disasters of family cookouts are timeless, and Murphy's spot-on impression of himself as a child gives any viewer something to identify with. Frequent references to his brother Charlie sound much funnier today given his recent rise to fame on "Chapelle's Show."\nAnother great bit is Murphy imitating the people who will try to retell his jokes at work the next day and the reaction they are bound to get. While many of the jokes are still uncanny in their relevance to today's world, some of them are just as outdated as Murphy's Jheri curl. For instance, Murphy's liberal use of the word "faggot," his accusing homosexuals as being the only group of people with AIDS and condoning of violence toward women no longer sound the same to ears in 2007 as they once may have. \nFurthermore, the jokes within these topics appear to be more mean-spirited than they are funny. It's easy to see why Murphy tried to block the commercial release of this performance for so long, since he's matured greatly and renounced several of these stances. The act ends with Murphy explaining how amazing it is that less than 50 years ago, in the same building where he is performing, a black opera singer named Marian Anderson was banned from singing because of segregation and now he can get paid to go there and "hold (his) dick on stage." While it is understandable for this 22-year-old to bask in his incredible ascent to fame, it is this kind of statement that the older Murphy may no longer be so proud of.\nThe special features are somewhat thin given such an important release and only contain two deleted scenes, as well as a 30-minute interview with Byron Allen that borders on insightful but is mostly marked by poor questions and a lack of chemistry between the interviewer and his subject. All in all, the DVD does a great job of showing a fantastic star at an early stage of his career and is a must-see for fans of stand-up comedy.

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