Trolling for the Culture: Delirious Thirty-Five Years Later

I initially wrote this on a Saturday night at home several months ago. Delirious is still on Netflix for your viewing pleasure.

I scrolled through an endless variety of television shows and movies on Netflix last night and stopped on a surprising find — Eddie Murphy’s 1983 debut stand-up special Delirious, filmed at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. The last time I saw this film was in that decade, and I was far too young to remember or to be introduced to the jokes Murphy made. I pressed play because nothing else on the streaming service seemed interesting enough to give me the entertainment I sought on a night in.

I don’t recommend anyone who is easily offended by words like faggot, bitch, nigger, or jokes about race, domestic violence, and corporal punishment to watch this. Comedians pull all their material from whatever the current climate of society is. Whether you were around in 1983 or not, it’s understood times were quite different 35 years ago. Eddie Murphy’s first joke of the night was, “I got some rules when I throw down, I got some rules and shit. Straight up — faggots aren’t allowed to look at my ass while I’m on stage.” Once upon a time before the late aughts, masculine-identified men in hip-hop culture didn’t wear baggy clothes. Catching a glimpse of a dick print or tight butt, whether you wanted to or not, was easy, especially if you’re wearing a custom slim-fit red leather ensemble with a low-hanging black belt. It was almost as if he were taunting any of the gay men who were in the audience while inviting everyone to look at his posterior. I had to see where he was going with this bit. “I kid the homosexuals a lot because they homosexuals. I fuck with everybody, I don’t give a fuck. I don’t mean anything by it. You can hang out with a gay person. Don’t alienate a gay person.” From there, Murphy goes into how women who hang with gay men frighten him because they can pick up AIDS through a friendly kiss and then pass it on to their boyfriends or husbands. We’ve come a long way.

Comedians of yesteryear were anything but politically correct and we didn’t bat an eye when hearing jokes about gays, women, or different races. There was a point in the evening when a woman in the audience screamed, “Do Mister Rogers!” and a male audience member responded, “Shut up bitch!” The crowd erupted in applause. I laughed throughout the entire film while also thinking another Delirious will never happen again, not because we don’t have comedians as brilliant as Eddie Murphy was in his prime, but the language and general knowledge of people around us have evolved considerably since 1983. Dave Chappelle received an overwhelming amount of negative response for his stand-up specials released in the past year. I found all of his recent sets humorous and saw no cause for indictment. All three of Chappelle’s Netflix specials of today were tame compared to any of Eddie Murphy’s in the 1980s. This is exactly why I think Netflix is trolling its subscribers.

Merriam-Webster’s informal definition of trolling is to antagonize (others) online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content.

Let’s run through some recent events:
- #MenAreTrash and #MeToo have taken social media by storm and are now part of our lexicon
- High profile men continue to be accused of sexual and physical abuse, with Nas physically abusing Kelis and a Bill Cosby guilty verdict being the latest news
- Kanye West broke the internet basically telling people to do better, Donald Trump is ok with him, and 400 years of chattel slavery was a choice
- The LGBTQ+ folks, or the #AlphabetSoupCrew as I like to call us, are more accepted and understood. Our presence is more recognized on the surface, although I still question our true community beneath the surface
- Depending on who you talk to, the existence of or the focus on racism is the reason people are unhappy

With all this happening in the world, why else would Netflix decide to add a film as profane as Delirious to its roster? Because they can and it could possibly get people talking about how the more things change, the more they remain the same. We live in an imperfect world and normalization of all social behavior is a construct. I believe we’re currently in a state of psychological warfare, more than biological or ideological. Ego-tripping is a more succinct way to describe this shift. Skeletons are coming out of closets faster than roaches scattering when the lights come on. I think psychologically, humans today are no less fucked up than they were in 1983. The differences are more studies have been conducted on human behavior, food and water have more drugs in it than CVS, and any person with a smartphone can tell the world how they’re mad and not taking it anymore.

Geronimo Knows is an urban culture + lifestyle enthusiast, reformed blogger turned full-time interviewer. He hosts the lifestyle and travel series Cool|Calm|Connected, now playing on AllTheFlyKids.com. You can also hear him on The All the Fly Kids Show podcast, airing Mondays at 1pm on Full Service Radio at The LINE Hotel in Washington, DC. Learn more about Geronimo at geronimoknows.com.

🇹🇹🇺🇸 Aspiring Black Culture Scholar | Podcaster (Chaos & Culture)🎙| Rural + Urban Living = Culture | Somewhere in America, Sometimes Abroad