A Tale of Two Talents: Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy

2952690034_05c05c1b37_bRobin Williams and Eddie Murphy had so much in common. Both had roots in the San Francisco standup comedy scene.  They were both known for creating memorable comedic characters, for having quick minds, and for a willingness to be outrageous and say anything that came into their heads. They both were successful voice actors who created memorable characters like Williams’ Genie in Aladdin and Murphy’s Donkey in Shrek.

If talent were only a set of skills and strengths, these two men could be seen as almost interchangeable parts. But we know that talent is much more than that. It is the full self-expression of an individual that employs all of one’s unique qualities, including the inner being.

With the untimely passing of Mr. Williams, there have been so many testimonials to his generous spirit. This generosity wasn’t a quality he had in addition to his talent. It was an integral part of his talent. And by generosity we don’t just mean the many stories of his charity work, his close friendships, and philanthropy. It also was in the way that he was willing to share every facet of his being–the light and the dark, the brilliance and the pain.

Where Williams invested himself in his characters, Mr. Murphy seemed to hide behind his characters. In several films, he played multiple characters with the aid of prosthetics, makeup, and costumes. The one notable exception was his performance in the movie Dream Girls, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.  The performance in a character loosely modeled on soul singer James Brown wasn’t always pretty, but it rang true. There seemed to be a lot less makeup and a lot more Eddie. Unfortunately, on Oscar night, when he didn’t win the award, he left abruptly and did not stay to support and celebrate his fellow cast mates.  We don’t mean to judge the man. We don’t know him personally. However, it begs the question: How do we get the best of Eddie Murphy? Is it just that he’s selfish and egotistical or is he giving us a public demonstration of how fear keeps us from full self-expression?

Robin Williams is gone, but for Eddie Murphy, and for the rest of us, we still have the opportunity to get beyond our talent-limiting fears and fully share with the world what we have to offer.

Knowing what we do now about Robin Williams’s emotional struggles, we offer this scene from “Good Will Hunting” as a demonstration of one human being fully sharing his talent—who he is as well as what he does.


Photo by: Shameek

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Posted in Overcoming Obstacles

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