Beginnings Murphy Citing Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor among his influences, Murphy spent most of his formative years entertaining his friends and classmates at Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School. At just 15, he began working in earnest as a stand-up comedian, eventually finding himself performing at the Manhattan club The Comic Strip. He so impressed the clubs co-owners Robert Wachs and Richard Tienken that they began to manage his career. At 19, he became the youngest regular on Saturday Night Live, (here, with Robert Culp), playing hilarious characters such as Velvet Jones, Mr. Robinson and a very cranky Gumby. Smith Smith decided to forgo a scholarship to MIT to pursue a career as an MC with his childhood buddy Jazzy Jeff. As the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The French Prince, they hit the charts with their often humorous and clean raps, including Parents Just Dont Understand and Summertime, winning the first Grammy in the rap category in 1988. After spending too much money too soon, Smith was nearly bankrupt when he landed the starring role on his own NBC sitcom in 1990, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Smith continued on the show until 1996. Winner: Though both hit it big when they were young, Murphy has the edge, achieving TV stardom at 19.
George Rose / Los Angeles Times