It was one of the most highly-anticipated moments of the “Saturday Night Live” 40th anniversary special, but in the end it lasted only a minute. Eddie Murphy’s highly publicized return to the “SNL” stage for the show’s 40th anniversary special on Sunday night stunned viewers – mainly because it was so brief and so unfunny. After a lengthy introduction by Chris Rock, Murphy took the stage at Studio 8H and said, “I will always love this show … and let’s have some more show.” It was Murphy’s first return to the show since 1984.
Rock’s introduction for the “SNL” icon had him praising Murphy as his idol, He even credited the funnyman with saving the struggling comedy show in the early 1980s. Rock said without Murphy, “I’d be like the funny UPS driver in Queens. And Tina Fey would be the funniest English professor at Drexel University.”
So, what happened to Murphy’s sense of humor? When the 53-year-old comedian came out, his remarks were brief and surprisingly serious. “This show is such a big part of who I am and my life,” he said. “And I’m so happy to be back here. It’s a magical feeling. Actually it feels like going back to my old high school, kind of… I’m really happy that so many people here value the stuff that I did 35 years ago. I will always love this show and … let’s have some more show. Let’s have a big round of applause for everybody.”
There were no Murphy sketches or reprisals. Fans hoping for a return of Murphy’s famous “SNL” characters like Mr. Robinson or Gumby, had to settle for clip montages from old school “SNL” episodes.
In an interview with Variety last week, “SNL” show runner Lorne Michaels addressed his own five-year hiatus from the show (1980 to 1985), during which Murphy came on board at age 19. “It was a really important time, and Eddie Murphy may be the biggest star ever to come out of here,’ he said. “ I think we’ll pay a huge amount of respect to it, and a lot of the other people from that era.” But last year. Michaels admitted that the show later created some bad blood with Murphy by making fun of his box office flops, most notably in a sketch starring David Spade. “It was a mistake on our part,” Michaels admitted, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Murphy’s time on “SNL” introduced viewers to some of the late night show’s most iconic characters, including Gumby, Buckwheat from “The Little Rascals,” and a spoof on Mr. Rogers called Mr. Robinson. Murphy left “SNL” for good in early 1984, returning only once later that year to host the show, before his disappointing appearance on Sunday night.