There is a long-standing tradition in Hollywood for “serious actors” to be seen as the ones who do drama, while comedy actors are often dismissed as being an inferior species of performers. Coming 2 America director Craig Brewer recently waded into the debate, particularly with respect to Eddie Murphy, who Brewer believes does not get enough credit for his comedy roles because he makes it all look too easy.
“It really bothers me. And I feel that it’s even more stilted against Eddie because the problem that I think people have with Eddie is that they think that it’s easy for him. I’m sure there are many things in Eddie’s life that feel easy. But what people don’t know is what I see, which is him sitting in his chair, in makeup, he’s putting on music, he’s getting into a place, he’s rehearsing these lines — you see him where he doesn’t fool around on set. When you’re in between takes, he goes to his chair and you see him get into this trance where he is working and working and working. There’s craft there. And I worry that people think that like, ‘Oh, well, Eddie’s just showing up and being funny, like he’s always done.’ And that’s just not true. Yes, he’s showing up and being hilarious, but it’s not like he’s just flipping a switch.”
For a long time, Murphy was considered a juggernaut in the world of comedy, effortlessly coming up with an endless parade of characters on Saturday Night Live, and later on in his movies. The Nutty Professor in particular is noted for having Murphy play a range of widely disparate characters, all in the same scene.
And yet, the few times that Murphy has been acknowledged by award shows are for his dramatic roles in movies like Dreamgirls and Mr. Church. A similar fate has befallen other comedic actors, from Jim Carrey to Robin Williams, and created the popular narrative that comedy actors like Jonah Hill and Kristen Wiig etc. need to do serious dramas in order to be considered “real actors”. According to Brewer, this type of thinking discounts the effort it takes to be funny in front of the camera.
“You take every dramatic actor or actress, and they will all say the same thing. Comedy is so much harder. There’s no one in the room laughing. Everyone’s got to be very quiet. You’re dealing with timing, with an audience who is not there. … I think that it involves so much more awareness and so much more craft, at times, depending on the material, then some of these [dramatic] roles where people are kind of just screaming and yelling, doing things that feel right on a human level, that are kind of easier to do.”
Directed by Craig Brewer, Coming 2 America stars Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne, Shari Headley, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Teyana Taylor, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Paul Bates, Nomzamo Mbatha and Bella Murphy. The film is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Read the whole interview at CinemaBlend.