"He's the reason why I'm in comedy," Tracy Morgan says of Eddie Murphy

By Arnesa A. Howell
Updated October 19, 2015 10:45 AM
Credit: Paul Morigi/WireImage; Inset: Paul Morigi/WireImage

Tracy Morgan knows the power of laughter, and it’s something he credits his “comedic hero” Eddie Murphy with bringing back into his life.

“When I first came out of my coma, I spoke to Eddie on the phone, and he was the first one to make me laugh – and that’s why I love you,” Morgan said in a touching moment during Sunday’s taping of the 18th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor ceremony honoring Murphy.

“He’s the reason why I’m in comedy, he’s the reason why I have a job, he’s the reason why I have a career,” said Morgan, who walked on stage at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., to a standing ovation led by his friend and inspiration.

The Saturday Night Live alum admitted that Murphy also influenced his style choices.

“My first time on stage, I wore a red leather suit – actually I couldn’t afford red leather,” he quipped, a nod to Murphy’s Delirious comedy special wardrobe. Morgan added that fake leather doesn’t breathe: “I almost passed out.”

Morgan paid tribute to Murphy just one day after returning to host SNL, his first appearance since the tragic 2014 accident that left him severely injured and in a coma. Just hours earlier, Morgan slowly made his way down the red carpet, where he smiled and posed for photographers. He snapped photos with The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, soul singer Sam Moore and activist Dick Gregory before waving to cheering fans and leaving hand-in-hand with his wife Megan.

Morgan joined a star-studded list of comics including Dave Chappelle, Kathy Griffin, Arsenio Hall, Chris Rock, George Lopez, Jay Piscopo and Jay Pharoah in celebrating the humor and accomplishments of Murphy, who accepted the prestigious prize as girlfriend Paige Booker and his kids looked on.

Eddie Murphy: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize will air on PBS stations nationwide on Nov. 23 at 9 p.m ET.