Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on July 27, 2010

Today: How comedian Eddie Murphy overcame incredible odds to succeed.

If you’ve ever denied yourself the possibility of success because you were afraid to look foolish in front of others, you will especially enjoy today’s story.

Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1961, to a New York City police officer father and to a telephone operator mother, Eddie and his older brother Charlie were growing up in the poor, largely black and Puerto Rican Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

But Eddie’s and Charlie’s parents got divorced when Eddie was just three years old and his father died when Eddie was eight. When he was nine, his mother married an ice cream factory worker and the family moved to Roosevelt, Long Island, NY, a working class black superb.

As Eddie grew up, he watched a lot of television and became so enraptured by it, he created his own world, doing impressions and imagining story lines for famous people such as Elvis Presley, James Brown, Little Richard Simmons (combining two characters), Bugs Bunny and many others.

In his home, often alone, he put on entire shows. His brother Charlie and the other guys from the neighborhood laughed at Eddie when they saw him performing and told him he was crazy.

But Eddie didn’t worry about what others thought. When he was 15 he performed at a talent show in the Roosevelt Youth Center, lighting up the audience with his impressions of famous people.

Eddie was bright but he barely graduated from high school for he had little interest in his studies. After graduating, he enrolled at a community college to please his mother, and he got a part-time job selling shoes.

But meanwhile Eddie kept pursuing his real love, comedy and he showed up at comedy clubs all around New York City, going on stage whenever they had open microphone nights when anyone could perform.

Pretty soon Eddie began to impress club owners and began to build an audience for his comedy, as he became a paid comedy club comedian and continued to gain experience.

Then when he heard the very popular television show Saturday Night Live wanted to hire a black comedian for the 1980-81 season, he jumped all over the opportunity. But show business is filled with heavy competition and frequent rejection.

Eddie persisted and auditioning several times, striving to do better each time. After sitting on pins and needles he got the wonderful news, he was hired.

But the job was a small part, making him little more than an extra, occasionally appearing briefly on the show. But Eddie kept working on his material and one night his big opportunity came. The show, broadcast live, ran out of material with four minutes left of on-air time.

The producers were frantic and sensing opportunity Eddie quickly volunteered to go on. With no rehearsal and in front of a national television he began to impromptu select from his comedy club routines. The audience loved it and he was a sensation.

The next season, Eddie became a featured cast member and grabbed the national audience by creating such characters as an adult version of Buckwheat, a Little Rascals black stereotype who had been acceptable to U.S. white audiences in the 1930’s and 40’s in a comedy series shown at the movies, and years later on television.

As an adult Buckwheat, Eddie caused audience to explode in laughter as he took the stereotypes of black people to their logically ludicrous.

Eddie also created Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood, a black ghetto version of the highly popular children’s show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and he created a collective of other skits, doing impressions of Bill Cosby, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and other famous people.

Soon Hollywood knocked on his door and Eddie became a box office sensation with movies such as “Trading Places” and “Beverly Hills Cop” and the “Shrek” series.

But the point is this: Eddie did what he loved and didn’t worry about others laughing at him. Soon they were laughing with him and he became a star, a star that still shines brightly today.

Success Tip of the Week: To avoid being “different,” most people conform to the expectations of others. But people don’t become stars in any field by blending in. Instead they answer their hearts as they pursue their dreams as Eddie did, and as you can do today.

In the next KazanToday: A charitable organization dedicated to providing free healthcare to those in need.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!
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