Eddie Murphy Almost Played Bill Cosby for ‘Saturday Night Live’ 40th Anniversary

By February 19, 2015

Last weekend’s 40th anniversary special for “Saturday Night Live” was quite the celebration of the late night sketch show’s iconic history, complete with dozens of huge cameos from former cast members and Hollywood’s finest alike. But there was one part of the show that fans were more than a little disappointed in, and that was the return of Eddie Murphy to Studio 8H after leaving the show 30 years ago.

Murphy was a cast member on “SNL” from 1980 to 1984, and a large part of the show’s success during those year’s was due to the comic prodigy’s talent both in writing and performing. So why has he never come back, even for big celebrations like the show’s 25th anniversary? Well, it all goes back to a joke David Spade made during his Hollywood Minute segment on Weekend Update. With an image of Murphy on screen, Spade quipped, “Look children, a falling star!”

Sure, that’s a funny joke, but it’s also harsh, especially considering what Murphy did for the show. Lorne Michaels thought it was a clean joke, but Murphy was pissed, and he’s held a grudge ever since. And that’s why it was such a big deal for Murphy to return to the stage last weekend. But all we got from Murphy was this:

Now that’s a wonderful tribute by Chris Rock, and it’s just nice to see Murphy on the main stage thanking Lorne Michaels and “SNL” and everyone who loved what he did while there. But it was also a little lackluster. He didn’t bring any laughs, didn’t reprise any old characters, and fans just weren’t happy.

But former “SNL” cast member Norm Macdonald revealed in a stream of updates on Twitter last night that there was a plan for Murphy to do more for the 40th anniversary special, but the plan didn’t come to fruition. Macdonald ran through his week back at 30 Rock, specifically about writing the “Celebrity Jeopardy” reprise with Lori Jo Hoekstra and Steve Higgins, and within his recollection of working on that sketch comes the Eddie Murphy cameo that didn’t happen.

First of all, if you haven’t watched the Celebrity Jeopardy sketch, you can watch it now:

Now as you can see, Kenan Thompson shows up as Bill Cosby to end the sketch. It’s a great joke to end on, but it would have been even bigger because the original idea (as come up with by Higgins) was to have Murphy do his infamous Cosby impression and bring the house down. However, Murphy ended up not doing the sketch. Here’s part of Macdonald’s recount of trying to convince Murphy to do the bit:

For more of the lead-up to that moment and details on the rest of Macdonald’s week back at “Saturday Night Live,” check out his Twitter feed right here. It’s fascinating, even touching, and just cool to get this glimpse behind the scenes. It makes me wish everyone there that night would write some kind of piece about what they did in Studio 8H that week.

But back to the Eddie Murphy bit, it’s supremely disappointing that Murphy didn’t do this little cameo. While I appreciate his gift in perceiving comedy and even Macdonald’s respect of the man for not needing the laughs, the excuse of not kicking a man while he’s down seems a little weak. This isn’t a guy who had some bad luck. Cosby is now a despised man being accused of dozens of counts of rape and sexual assault. I think all the kicks he gets are justified, especially for laughs. But instead, Cosby is applauding Murphy for holding back from doing this joke. That just doesn’t seem right.

Anyway, I suppose fans of “SNL” should take what they can get when it comes to Murphy coming back to the show that helped launch his career. Maybe he’ll finally do something when the show’s 50th anniversary rolls around in 10 years. In the meantime, we’ll just have to watch clips of Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, Buckwheat and Gumby instead.

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Ethan Anderton
Some of his favorite films include Ghostbusters, The Empire Strikes Back and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, while his favorite TV series include LOST, Mad Men, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, Arrested Development and Saturday Night Live.
  • Willie

    i think eddie did it out of respect for mr.cosby…he’s been getting super harsh criticism because of these stupid women who are saying they got “raped” when they were drinkin and smoking weed with him….obvious liars…i have a lot of respect for him standing up and saying no to that