Brooklyn-born Murphy grew up in poverty and began performing his own comedy routines at the tender age of 15. His work and New York roots attracted the attention of the producers of Saturday Night Live, who cast him in the show for the 1980 season. Murphy quickly excelled,
becoming a break-out member of the cast. By 1982 his explosively controversial brand of comedy had earned him quite a following, and he began releasing comedy albums. He also starred in his first movie, 48 Hrs., the same year. The film became an immediate hit, and helped Murphy earn a reputation as a comic leading man.
Murphy followed up his box office success with hits like Beverly Hills Cop, The Golden Child and Coming to America. The latter saw Murphy earn a new level of respect as an actor, playing multiple roles in the film through the use of make-up and prosthetics. In 1996, however, Murphy raised the bar on his level of performances in The Nutty Professor, a film which saw him play six (arguably seven) characters! Murphy again topped himself in 2007, scoring an Oscar nomination for his work in the musical Dreamgirls. Though his film output has since declined, he continues to act today.