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Be Kind Rewind – Pass the Torch!

By Michael Nazarewycz

Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy are a fascinating study of just how different two similar things can be. Both caught big breaks on television, parlayed their comical successes into other successful ventures, and helped break barriers for future African American entertainers. The big difference between them comes in their comedic styles, and their stand-up concert film titles perfectly sum up the differences.

 

Bill Cosby: Himself (1983)Bill Cosby: Himself
1983
Starring Bill Cosby
Directed by Bill Cosby

The meat of Cosby’s subject matter is family. He converses more than performs, and that intimacy gives you the feeling that he is being ... well ... himself. His stories span generations, and his style is such that anyone over 12 can relate to something in his act. I first saw this concert on cable with my grandfather when I was a young teen, and not once were either of us embarrassed. Cosby uses only one foul word (relatively mild today), but the context is so fitting to the story that we both laughed hysterically.

Eddie Murphy: Raw (1987)Eddie Murphy: Raw
1987
Starring Eddie Murphy
Directed by Robert Townsend

And then there is Eddie Murphy, who also waxes about family as part of his act. The difference is that while 12-year-olds might relate, Murphy’s language might melt their ears. Thus, Eddie Murphy is ... well ... raw. I saw Murphy on his Delirious tour, again when I was a teen, and while my ears didn’t melt, I certainly wouldn’t have taken my grandfather.

  

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