Eddie Murphy made a return appearance for Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary celebration back in February. Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that Murphy was asked to perform as Bill Cosby in the “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch during the show. Murphy’s uncanny ability to impersonate the fellow comedian made him perfect for the part, yet the former SNL member steadfastly refused the bit.
In a recent Washington Post interview, Murphy has finally explained why the Cosby skit was off the table for him.
“There’s nothing funny about it. If you get up there and you crack jokes about him, you’re just hurting people. You’re hurting him. You’re hurting his accusers. I was like, ‘Hey, I’m coming back to SNL for the anniversary, I’m not turning my moment on the show into this other thing.’ ”
The Huffington Post reported that Murphy opted instead to just do a short speech and not participate in any sketches whatsoever. Regardless, the “Jeopardy” bit went on with Eddie being replaced with current cast member Kenan Thompson impersonating Cosby.
Notwithstanding the awkwardness Murphy felt about the sketch, he understands why the show’s writers thought the sketch would have been funny, since Cosby’s legal troubles were just coming to light at the time.
Back in February, just prior to the start of the anniversary special, show writer and fellow ex-SNL star, Norm MacDonald tried unsuccessfully to convince Murphy to do the sketch. Later, MacDonald gave his own explanation of his colleague’s decision.
“Eddie decides the laughs are not worth it. He will not kick a man when he is down.”
Cosby certainly didn’t need any more media attention and was grateful for being left out that night. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the legendary funnyman later thanked Murphy for not mocking him at the SNL anniversary show.
More recently, despite his being left alone that night, other comedians have taken shots at Cosby’s formerly untarnished image. At the Golden Globes, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler had no problem cracking jokes about the ever increasing legal battles and allegations against Cosby.
As a wannabe comedian since he was a child, Eddie Murphy eventually got noticed for his comedic ability and improvisational talent after being cast as a feature player on Saturday Night Live at age 19. Incredibly, many people credit Murphy with saving the show from pending cancellation.
In 1981, when the show’s ratings were in the tank, NBC was on the verge of taking the it off the air. While watching Eddie perform during rehearsals via closed-circuit feed, Dick Ebersol, SNL’s creator, saw Murphy’s talent and was impressed.
It was Ebersol’s decision to have Murphy on screen at least three times in the first half of each show. The strategy worked. Ebersol later commented on Murphy’s impact on the history of SNL.
“Eddie’s the single most important performer in the history of the show. He literally saved the show.”
After his success with SNL, Murphy continued to find fame and fortune. Right after co-starring in the film Trading Places in 1983, he was quickly signed to an exclusive contract with Paramount, starred in a number of highly popular films, including Beverly Hills Cop, and at one point was earning in excess of $1 million a week.
Before he was even 28, Murphy was quite easily the biggest star of the mid-1980’s. However, a string of critically unpopular movies in 1990’s made Murphy take a step out of the limelight and re-think his future.
Even SNL made fun of the former show savior. During one skit, David Spade, pointing at a picture of Eddie Murphy joked, “Look children, it’s a falling star. Make a wish.” Later, Murphy was asked to appear on the show’s 25th anniversary celebration, but the invitation was declined.
These days, Murphy is enjoying the fruits of his 39 year career while remembering his humble beginnings trying to make other kids laugh as they rode home on the bus from school. By his own admission, he stays away from the “Hollywood stuff” and would rather spend time with his kids and girlfriend in Hollywood Hills, California.
However the drug and rape allegations against Bill Cosby turn out, it is obvious Eddie Murphy still has much respect for the man and refuses to turn someone’s public and personal difficulties into a joke.
[Photo by Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images for AFI]