Eddie Murphy’s 1983 special Delirious was a wild success, winning a Grammy for Best Comedy Album the next year and making audiences take notice of the young comic as one of the edgiest voices in the scene.
At the same time, criticism over Delirious’ often homophobic and offensive material has followed Murphy for decades. In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, the comedian once again addressed the special, which opened with 10 minutes of gay jokes. He heavily employed slurs and uttered lines like “I have nightmares about gay people.”
When asked if the special was still funny to him, Murphy responded, “Some of it. Some of it, I cringe when I watch. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I said that!'”
Murphy also said he wasn’t bothered by people protesting his work.
“No. In the moment, you kind of was like, ‘Hey, it is what it is,’ you know?” he said.
The comedian wasn’t too hard on himself over his older material, acknowledging that it was a different time and he didn’t know better. Murphy was 22 years old when the special was released.
“You’ll get a joke that’s cringey. But that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate it,” he said. “I still appreciate it. And I’m looking at it within the context of the times, you know. And I’m going, ‘Okay, I’m a kid, saying that.'”
Murphy previously apologized in 1996 for making AIDS jokes in Delirious. He released a one-page statement in response to gay activists who demanded The Late Show with David Letterman cancel his appearance.
“I deeply regret any pain all this has caused,” Murphy said in the statement. “Just like the rest of the world, I am more educated about AIDS in 1996 than I was in 1981.”
“I know how serious an issue AIDS is the world over,” he added. “I know that AIDS isn’t funny. It’s 1996 and I’m a lot smarter about AIDS now.”
He also touched on his plea at the 1988 Oscars for more diversity and getting completely ignored. When Murphy presented on stage, he stated, “I’m going to give this award, black people will not ride the caboose of society and we’re not going to bring up the rear any more.”
Murphy said the press made no mention of his comments, as if he wasn’t at the ceremony. “And then I didn’t get nominated for Oscars for years!” he added.
He eventually went on to nab a nomination for 2006’s Dreamgirls, and he’s garnering some serious Oscar buzz for his Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name. In 2020, Murphy will also star in the highly anticipated Coming to America sequel.