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On Cusp Of National Honor, A Look Back At Eddie Murphy's Career In Comedy

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Tonight, a city that's best known for its politics is going to be full of laughter. Eddie Murphy is being honored with the 18th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the nation's top award for humor, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The comedian, actor and producer has been making us laugh for 35 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

EDDIE MURPHY: (As Stevie Wonder) (Singing) I am dark, and you are light.

TONY ROSATO: (As Secretary) You are blind as a bat, and I have sight.

MARTIN: Eddie Murphy was only 19 years old when he began appearing on "Saturday Night Live" - that was a skit from there, playing unforgettable characters like James Brown, Gumby and, of course, Buckwheat. And he went on to have a very successful standup comedy career.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DELIRIOUS")

MURPHY: And no matter what was going on, the ice cream man came, you stop. You'd be getting some marbles [expletives]. You hear - do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do (ph). Ice cream. Ice cream. The ice cream man is coming. The ice cream man is coming.

MARTIN: Later, his success continued with raunchy and racy standup comedy specials, like "Eddie Murphy Raw" and "Delirious." His movie career created comedy classics like "48 Hours," "Trading Places" and "Beverly Hills Cop."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BEVERLY HILLS COP")

MURPHY: (As Alex Foley) Morning, officer. What you on - the second team?

JOEL BAILEY: (As Detective McCabe) We're the first team.

ART KIMBRO: (As Detective Foster) Yeah, we're not going to fall for a banana in the tailpipe.

MURPHY: (As Alex Foley) You're not going to fall for the banana in the tailpipe? (Laughter) It should be more natural, brother. It should flow out, like this. Look, man, I falling for no banana in my tailpipe. See? That's for natural for us. You been hanging out with this dude too long (laughter).

MARTIN: So the best comedians in the business are paying tribute tonight, including Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Eddie Murphy's longtime friend Arsenio Hall. The show will air on PBS November 23. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.