Why Eddie Murphy says Tyler Perry is Dolemite for the new generation

Eddie Murphy Returns to "Saturday Night Live" Eddie Murphy came back to host "SNL" over the weekend after a 35-year absence. He revived some of his old characters along the way, including Gumby, Mr. Robinson and Buckwheat. The comic was also joined on stage during his monologue by fellow "SNL" alums, Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan, as well as Dave Chappelle and current "SNL" cast member Kenan Thompson. Murphy was a cast member on the long-running sketch comedy show from 1980 to 1984.

The Netflix film “Dolemite Is My Name” may feature Eddie Murphy as the lead, but the actor says it’s Tyler Perry who embodies the real-life version of the titular character.

Murphy won critical acclaim for his portrayal in the biographical comedy. The film sees him portray comedian Rudy Ray Moore, who shot to fame in the 1970s when he created the iconic blaxploitation pimp character, Dolemite.

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Moore had been a struggling musician and working at a record store when inspiration struck in 1970. A regular customer named Rico walked in and began sharing stories about an out-of-this-world pimp named Dolemite. Amused by what he heard, Moore later recorded Rico's stories and turned them into a stand-up persona, using the character in his routines. After releasing raunchy comedy records that were underground hits, Moore collected profits from them to launch the first in a series of blaxploitaton films beginning with 1975's "Dolemite." And his impact has gone beyond comedy as Moore, who died in 2008, became known as the the Godfather of Rap, which hankers back to his roots in the entertainment business.

Reflecting on Moore and his character of Dolemite, Murphy likened the fictional character and his real-life namesake to Perry. The head of Atlanta-based Tyler Perry Studios shot to fame with his now-retired persona, Madea, much as Moore did with Dolemite.

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"Today, Rudy Ray Moore would be Tyler Perry," Murphy told IndieWire. "On the surface, [Perry] looks like he just popped up, but he was making these plays and doing Madea all around, so he had a grassroots following. That's what Rudy did when he went, "Hey, I got this thing, I know what's good, I believe in it and I'm going to go and work and sell it out of my trunk and get it going." Your belief and your volition gets you whatever you want. He doesn't have any of this stuff that's supposed to make you. He's got a pot belly, and he's not a good-looking guy. He's got nothing and his stuff is super crude. And he went and got his act from homeless people in the alley."

Like Moore, Perry had been struggling to achieve success as a playwright early in his career. The now-mogul famously lived in his car not far from where his recently expanded movie studio sits today.

"I had just moved to Atlanta to try to launch this play, so I went to work," he said during a 2016 Tuskegee University commencement address. "I managed to save $12,000 and I put the show up working in used car, as a bill collector (proceeds from a tax return). I thought 1,200 people would show up that weekend but only 30 showed up. My car payment, rent, everything was tied up in it so I ended up homeless with no money and nothing to my name."

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But Perry continued to put on one play a year from 1992 to 1998 — and he was about to give up that year. But after hearing about the impact his plays had on audiences, his focus changed.

“My intention became, how do I serve other people? How do I lift other people?” he said.

Perry's plays, which featured the Louisiana-born matriarch Madea, soon spawned films that starred the beloved tough woman-of-a-certain-age. The flicks have amassed $523.52 million at the domestic box office following the May 2019 release of  "Tyler Perry's A Madea Family Funeral." It's the final film to feature Madea, who was inspired by his mother.

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