Comic Timing

As an ever-evolving lexicon, the Oxford English Dictionary regularly adds words and phrases that have found their way into heavy rotation in the current vernacular. Recent additions to the OED include "supersize," "e-learning" and "spyware." When the next round of updates rolls around, I would not be surprised to find the line "I'm Rick James, bitch" on the list.

The definition might go something like this: Catchphrase used to arrogantly express not only lack of remorse, but pride at the mistreatment of a lesser, as in, "What are you going to do about it? I'm Rick James, bitch."

If you're unfamiliar with this saying, consider yourself out of the loop, because the popularity it garnered from The Chappelle Show's "Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories" sketch is so widespread it's absurd. During the bit, the comic recounts how he was punked by Super Freak Rick James while working as a bodyguard for his brother, Eddie Murphy. Mercifully, use of the phrase has cooled, but for a while, it was not uncommon to hear "I'm Rick James, bitch" uttered seven or eight times a day, everywhere from high school hallways to office water coolers. Everyone was saying it, laughing just as hard repeating it as they did the first time they heard it.

And you can't blame them, because the concept is funny. That is, until you get Rick-James-bitched.

I was recently Rick-James-bitched -- ironically, by Charlie Murphy, who was supposed to call me to do an interview about his upcoming Comedy Works shows, which begin on Friday, May 13. Instead, he stood me up -- not once, but twice. To his credit, Murphy finally attempted to reach me some 45 minutes after the second interview was scheduled, but I was away from my desk. There was no disdain in his voice, nor did he appear to relish the moment; the lapse, it seems, was merely a result of conflicting schedules.

But I like to imagine that, as a result of the comedy routine's immense popularity, the roles have been reversed. Now red-hot Charlie Murphy is a big dog. And though his message on my phone was nothing but polite, when I tell my friends about it, I think I'll edit it a bit. "Uh, yeah, Adam," it will say in my recounting. "Forget about that interview. I'm Charlie Murphy, bitch."

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Adam Cayton-Holland