Charlie Murphy & Donell Rawlings: Straight Comedy

By Francesca Djerejian  |  08/28/2006

We may know them best for their prized performances on "Chappelle's Show," but Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings are breaking out on multiple fronts to deliver more laughs to the eager masses. The comedic arsenal they are building includes the Amazing Race-style reality show "Charlie vs. Donnell," Murphy's first starring role in the Victor Varnado-directed "Twist the Cap," and Donnell's battle-hungry presence on Power 105.1's "Life in the Den" morning show.

Though the two funny men share the ability to embed their raucous brand of comedy into the popular consciousness, they have a very different way of discussing their common craft. While Charlie is intimidatingly serious and matter-of-fact to the point of bluntness, Donnell is disarmingly laid-back and fields questions with raunchy jokes and left-field humor.

BallerStatus caught up with the talents behind Ashy Larry and "True Hollywood Stories" to talk about their newfound success and to get a taste of things to come. How did you both get started doing comedy?

Donnell Rawlings: I used to go to comedy clubs with some co-workers when I was living in DC, and I became a heckler for the stage from my chair. I started performing comedies and from there, the club owner challenged me to get on stage. I went on stage and it was the perfect commentary. Before "Chapelle's Show," I was doing stand up, I was doing dramatic acting, I developed my own sketches and I was producing and directing my own sketch group. I was outstanding.

Charlie Murphy: I started doing comedy 3 years ago. I don't have the "been doing it since I was a baby" story. I started doing stand up when I was on the "Chapelle's Show." But, I had people feeling me before "Chapelle's Show." Let me put it like this: many people been knowing about Charlie Murphy. Everybody else is finding out about me now, so yeah. Who were your comedic role models coming up?

Donnell Rawlings: God and my mom. I never really expected to be a comic, I didn't have the focus. So, I really never had comedic inspiration, that came from my family. Are we going to be seeing any more of Ashy Larry in the future?

Donnell Rawlings: If you are at a public swimming pool, it's a possibility you could catch Ashy Larry. You could catch Ashy Larry coming out of a hot shower, or I'm quite sure you can catch Ashy Larry before I go jogging, and you can always catch Ashy Larry before sex, when he's rocking out with his cock out and when they're jamming out with their clam out. I always tell all the kids when you use your penis, you got to make sure to use your penis in a professional and artistic manner. Charlie, when did you first come up with the idea to do "True Hollywood Stories?"

Charlie Murphy: It happened by accident. We were just talking and it was funny and we just worked it into what it became. I didn't know it was going to take off like it did. You don't know what is gonna work, you just do your best. You show up and you do your best man, you've got to stay true to yourself and do what your comfortable with and what is within your ability. It's up and done after that, right? When you were hosting Season Three without Dave, did you feel a lot of pressure?

Donnell Rawlings: No, I didn't really feel pressure, I felt like I had to really be focused and dedicated to letting people know who I am and identify me in that capacity of co-hosting the show. But, I had a lot of stage experience, so all I had to do is not try too hard to compete and pretty much set the stage for people to see Dave's sketches.

Charlie Murphy: Oh absolutely, 'cause of course, because you have to be in front somebody else's audience for a brief moment, you ask yourself what you're doing. But, you have to take control of the situation. So what is your relationship with Dave Chappelle like now, you guys are still cool?

Charlie Murphy: I see him when I see him. He's on the circuit and we cross paths and everything is good.

Donnell Rawlings: I would want to think we're still colleagues, but were not partying and we're definitely not rocking out with our cocks out. How did you get involved with the "Live in the Den" show?

Donnell Rawlings: I had a situation and I used to work at Hot 97 as the morning co-host and I saw there was a job opening. With the insecurity of the "Chapelle Show," I was like, "Now is the chance to get as many jobs as I can." So, they reached out to my publicist situation and so I tried to get a situation and I'm on three months now. You want to talk about some of the artists you've battled on there?

Donnell Rawlings: Beanie Man got destroyed, I sent him back to Jamaica. I sent Daddy Yankee back to Puerto Rico, and I sent Egypt back to the den and Donnell Jones is now rapping. Who do you want to battle next?

Donnell Rawlings: I think I might retire, the competition is too much for them. I think I'm just going to fall back. Maybe I'll make people like Chris Brown dance. I think he heard how I destroyed Omarion, so I don't think anybody wants it right now. I spit fire, I spit hot flame. So you and Charlie have this dynamic going on, how would you describe it?

Donnell Rawlings: It's like a friendly love/hate relationship. It's like an older brother, little brother relationship and we definitely feel a lot of competition. That will be the angle of the pilot you are working on with Charlie?

Donnell Rawlings: The angle for the pilot is that we don't get along. It's a humorous discomfort you could say, but the inspiration came and I knew I needed another job. The premise is the "Amazing Race" with two people each week and the prize will be 10,000 dollars and whoever wins the elimination round gets the top bill on the show. But, I can't really discuss what the specific competitions will be.

Charlie Murphy: I signed a confidentiality agreement for that, so I can't elaborate. But, I've seen some of the footing and its very, very, very funny. It's very smart; it's nothing like anything else on television. So, if you had any hip-hop acts on your "Charlie Vs. Donnell" pilot, who would you want to have on the show?

Charlie Murphy: I like Busta, I like Ludacris...there's a bunch of cats that I like. The guys that pretty much run the game, those are the guys I like too, like everybody else. And I like Dead Prez, I like Keyshia Cole, I like all of them.

Donnell Rawlings: I would probably invite Puffy first because I know he travels with a lot of Proactiv, and I saw a white boy, he used Gillette Mach 4. Black people know that the razor blades that white people use are way too sensitive. And I'd like to meet Tupac because he has a long career, he puts an album out every year. Anybody who puts an album out every year, I want to meet that person. What else is on the horizon for you, Donnell?

Donnell Rawlings: I was thinking about using my penis in a professional manner tonight. Charlie, you're about to have your first starring role in "Twist The Cap," how do you feel about that?

Charlie Murphy: I'm really happy, I feel really good about that. My character is basically a two-bit con artist. He goes around doing petty crimes and he comes across a bottle cap worth a million dollars, but unfortunately it is stolen from him. So, he has to spend the rest of the movie trying to get it back. It's pretty funny. It's a good cast and it's a funny script, so that's the main thing. And how is the stand up and the touring going?

Charlie Murphy: I've been having a terrific turn out and terrific shows. Basically, the whole time I been doing this, there has never been a rough spot, [except] maybe once or twice. But now, I've been doing this three years, so I've been doing good as far as I'm concerned. I get paid to be on stage and people come to see me because they like Charlie Murphy and they've seen me do something funny before. They gonna come see when they come see me. That's life at the end of the day. I've been giving them what they paid to come see. Do you feel like you are growing as a stand up comedian?

Charlie Murphy: Absolutely, every day. Every time I go on stage, I'm growing. I'm not just doing it without thinking, I study what I'm doing, pay attention to what I'm doing, and I respect what I'm doing. I'm at this every day.