Charlie Murphy, the older brother of Eddie Murphy, a Chappelle's Show star and an accomplished comedian in his own right, died Wednesday in New York City. He was 57. Murphy's publicist confirmed the comedian's death to Rolling Stone, adding that the cause of death was leukaemia.
"Our hearts are heavy with the loss today of our son, brother, father, uncle and friend Charlie," the Murphy family said in a statement. "Charlie filled our family with love and laughter and there won’t be a day that goes by that his presence will not be missed."
"We just lost one of the funniest most real brothers of all time. Charlie Murphy RIP," Chris Rock, Murphy's CB4 co-star, tweeted. "Charlie Murphy changed my life," tweeted Chappelle's Show co-creator Neal Brennan. "One of the most original people I've ever met. Hilarious dude. Habitual Line Stepper. So sad."
After making his big screen debut in 1989's Harlem Nights, directed by his younger brother Eddie, and appearing in bit roles in Spike Lee films like Mo' Better Blues and Jungle Fever, Murphy's big break came as a cast member on Chappelle's Show, where "Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories" resulted in a pair of that series' most memorable sketches.
Both sketches featured Murphy reminiscing about he and Eddie's celebrity encounters in the Eighties, with Dave Chappelle portraying Rick James and Prince in the now-legendary sketches.
Charlie Murphy also co-wrote Vampire in Brooklyn, another film directed by Eddie, as well as 2007's Norbit. Murphy also appeared in 1998's The Player's Club, directed by Ice Cube. The rapper paid tribute to Murphy on Twitter Wednesday, "Damn, sorry to hear about my friend Charlie Murphy. He took a chance on a young director in The Player's Club. Always made me laugh. RIP."
Growing up in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, Charlie often stuck up for his younger brother; in defending Eddie, Charlie joked about fearing his mom's wrath if bullies picked on Eddie more than the bullies themselves. That guardian role made Charlie a natural to serve as Eddie's security guard as the comedian quickly ascended to stardom.
Due to Charlie's propensity toward overreacting while guarding his brother – "Whoever say something, I almost gave this old man a heart attack on a plane because he asked us if we were a basketball team. I took that personally," Murphy said in a Chappelle's Show outtake – forced Murphy to embark on his own career.
One night at an Eddie Murphy stand-up performance, Charlie went after one heckler "who tried to squeeze the lemon." "I took it as a personal crusade until they were like, 'You're a little overzealous in how you're performing your job.' So that's how I ended up not doing [security] anymore," Murphy said.
In 2016, Murphy took part in the Comedy Get Down tour alongside Cedric The Entertainer, Eddie Griffin, D.L. Hughley and George Lopez. His recent credits include voice roles in the animated series Black Dynamite and Black Jesus and an appearance in the 2016 film Meet the Blacks.
"He was the best storyteller I ever heard," Hughley said, reflecting on the many comedy gigs he did with Murphy on his radio program. "I'm sad that he's gone, but I'm also happy that I got to know him. He rushed home to be with his family after every gig, he did comedy his way and he died with gigs on the books."
In 2009, Tisha Taylor Murphy, Murphy's wife of 12 years, died following her own battle with cervical cancer.
"Tisha Taylor Murphy, wife of comedian and actor Charlie Murphy, passed away peacefully on Sunday with family at her side after facing the challenges of cancer for the past two years," Murphy's publicist said in a statement at the time. "The Murphy Family appreciates all of the support they have received from friends and fans and requests privacy during this very difficult time."
In a Facebook message posted Tuesday night, Murphy wrote, "One to Sleep On: Release the past to rest as deeply as possible."