The comedy legend received a standing ovation from a vibrant audience after being honored with the Icon Award during the “Byron Allen Presents theGrio Awards” ceremony in November. Murphy’s nearly five-decade portfolio earned him the prestigious accolade of being a pioneer in the entertainment industry and championing the future generation of Hollywood entertainers.
“I have been in this business for 47 years,” Murphy said as he was applauded. “It was a whole different show business back then.”
Murphy reflected on his career, the entertainment industry’s progress and the inspiration behind his pursuit of comedy.
“The only young people you would see were the Jackson 5, “Good Times” and “Sanford and Son,” which were the only Black people you would see on TV. Sidney Poitier was the only one in the movies.”
“We had no Black makeup artists, producers, writers and directors,” Murphy added. “We have all of that now.
Of course, it would not be a Murphy speech if he did not engage in a few jokes while addressing the audience. He was met with an outburst of laughter after poking fun at late actor Sidney Poitier for his appearance in his older films due to the lack of Black production hair and makeup artists in the early 1950s and beyond.
“Back then, if you watch those old movies and watch a Sidney Poitier movie, his hair is not combed,” Murphy said. “…But we never noticed. That’s how good of an actor he was. He just acted like his hair was combed.”
Near the end of his speech, Murphy recognized Byron Allen, who established the awards and is the founder, chairman and CEO of Allen Media Group, which owns theGrio. Allen, Murphy said, is the person who made him believe he could have a successful comedic career. Murphy said that Allen inspired his aspirations to become an entertainer after he realized that Allen, who was his age, was performing comedy and appearing as a co-host on the NBC series “Real People.” Allen had already made his national TV debut on “The Tonight Show” — becoming the youngest stand-up comic to grace that stage.
“When I got out here [California], the first person I wanted to meet was Byron Allen,” Murphy continued. “I met him, and we have been cool since then. It’s a trip because you [Allen] are still inspiring me after all these years.”