Why Eddie Murphy Did Not Perform On SNL 40th Anniversary Show

Written by on February 19, 2015


Sunday night while most of my friends watched the NBA All-Star Game, I decided to watch Saturday Night Live. Why? Because it marked the return of Eddie Murphy who didn’t grace that stage since December 1984. A long, long time ago. So I sat there and waited and waited and waited, and finally Chris Rock appeared and I knew that Eddie would soon follow. And he did. For about 1 minute he hit the stage and seemed a little nervous and unsure. And just like that he was gone. Never to return to the stage that episode. I like many Americans sat there with the “this is it???? face?” Yep, that was it. Eddie was gone, like he never showed up.

Well supposedly he was to do more than his 72 second speech. According to SNL alum Norm Macdonald Eddie Murphy was on tap to perform as Bill Cosby mixing drinks for a skit. But however, Eddie turned it down because well…. he didn’t want to kick Bill Cosby while he was down. So instead we got Keenan Thompson doing the Huxtable impersonation.

HERE’S WHAT THEY PITCHED: “A video daily double. The category would be Potent Potables, a common one on Jeopardy, but one we somehow had never done. And the idea was that it would be a bar set. And the idea was that Bill Cosby would be mixing a drink in a video that was taped 6 months ago. It was perfect. It was all Steve Higgins idea. At the end of the sketch, Darrel would choose potent potables. Homebase would be dressed as a bar. The iconic doors would open and on to home base would step Eddie Murphy. The audience would know what to do. Why is Eddie wearing a multicolored sweater? He steps behind the bar, begins mixing a drink. The audience covers the fact he has not spoken. When he speaks, he is Cosby. Eddie Murphy doing a perfect Cosby impression. The audience does not let him finish. The sketch ends. The show, for all intents, ends. All the impressions are forgiven.”

THEY TRIED EVERYTHING – EVEN BRETT RATNER. “The first thing to do is cut down the number of contestant/impressions and the second is to contact Eddie and to convince him to do it. The middle man to talk to Eddie was Brett Ratner, a cool guy who knows a great deal about comedy. He was with Eddie somewhere. So, the talks were underway. “Brett says Eddie doesn’t feel comfortable,” “Eddie says ‘maybe it’s OK since he’s doing pre-allegation Cosby.’ And on and on it went. I had not spoken to Eddie or Brett Ratner. I was dead sure Eddie would do it. Most others were not. Still, there was so much work to do.”

CUT TO A SCENE IN EDDIE’S DRESSING ROOM. GO, MACDONALD: “It’s my job to talk him in to doing Jeopardy. We talk in his dressing room a good hour. When it’s over, I’m convinced he’ll do it. He doesn’t. He knew the laughs would bring the house down. Eddie Murphy knows what will work on SNL better than any one. Eddie decides the laughs are not worth it. He will not kick a man when he is down. Eddie Murphy, I realize, is not like the rest of us. Eddie does not need the laughs. Eddie Murphy is the coolest, a rockstar even in a room with actual rockstars. Quite a week.”

After reading about how Eddie Murphy turned down the skit makes me have even more respect for the man. He could have easily hit the stage, did his spot on Cosby routine and brought the house down in laughs, but would it have been worth it? Everyone expects SNL to make fun of people, ESPECIALLY when they are down, that is what they do. But it would have meant 100 times more if Murphy would have done the segment. He would have been talked about on the internet, news shows, water coolers, and just about everywhere else people talk. However all laughs ain’t good laughs, and Eddie understands this and respectfully declined doing it.

Maybe we will get one more Eddie Murphy SNL hosting episode, maybe we won’t. But at least we didn’t get one King of Comedy pissing on another.



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