Why Eddie Murphy Stayed Away From ‘Saturday Night Live’ for So Long
When Eddie Murphy hosts Saturday Night Live on Dec. 21, 2019, it will be only his third time appearing on the show since he left the cast after the 1983-84 season to focus on his burgeoning movie career.
He hosted SNL for the first time only seven months following his departure, but then he took a 31-year hiatus from the show before returning in 2015 for a 40th-anniversary special.
In 2011, Murphy told Rolling Stone he stayed away for so long because Saturday Night Live "said some shitty things. There was that David Spade sketch" where Spade showed a picture of Murphy around the time of 1995's Vampire in Brooklyn and said, "Look, children, a falling star. Make a wish."
"I made a stink about it, it became part of the folklore," Murphy recalled. "What really irritated me about it at the time was that it was a career shot. It was like, 'Hey, come on, man, it’s one thing for you guys to do a joke about some movie of mine, but my career? I’m one of you guys. How many people have come off this show whose careers really are fucked up, and you guys are shitting on me?' And you know every joke has to go through all the producers, and ultimately, you know, Lorne [Michaels] or whoever says, 'Okay, it’s okay to make this career crack.”
Watch David Spade Make Eddie Murphy Joke on 'SNL'
Spade told the New York Post in 2015 that the Monday after the joke aired, Murphy called into the show and screamed at him, “You dumb motherfucker! I’m off-limits! Don’t you know that?”
Murphy held a grudge against the show for many years. He was the only major cast member not to attend the 25th-anniversary special in 1999. But he eventually made peace with Spade, who said Murphy cheerfully called out to him from his car one day. They hugged it out later that year on the show's 40th-anniversary special, Murphy's first time on SNL since 1984.
“I don’t think he cares anymore," Spade said. "He can’t possibly.”
"I felt shitty about that for years," Murphy explained. "But now I don’t have none of that. I wouldn’t go to retrospectives, but I don’t let it linger. ... Chris Rock was like, 'Do you guys still hate each other?' And I was like, 'I don’t hate David Spade, I’m cool with him.'”
His lone experience as a guest host, in December 1984, was notable for the monologue, in which Murphy distanced himself from his first flop movie, Best Defense, explaining that the paycheck was too great to resist.
"At first, I wasn’t gonna do it because I read the script, and I felt like I was an actor at first," he said. "But the money they gave me to do Best Defense, y’all woulda done Best Defense too, okay? ... I was like, 'What?! How dare you give me a script like this! Oh, that much money? Let’s go!'"
The 40th-anniversary episode was equally victorious, but not nearly as funny as Murphy's earlier appearance. Rock spoke for nearly four minutes about Murphy's influence on him and how the older comic single-handedly saved SNL in the early '80s. Then Murphy came out and spoke about how much the show meant to him, noting that it felt like "going back to my old high school," and how he was happy there were "so many people here that value the stuff that I did 35 years ago."
Watch an Eddie Murphy Tribute From 'SNL' 40th Anniversary
Murphy's return to Studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in December 2019 is part of an overall revisiting of his roots, which includes a stand-up tour and special on Netflix.
While he's unsure of the specifics of the upcoming SNL gig, fans can expect to see a few of his famous characters from his time on the show. “I have to do Buckwheat,” he told The New York Times, adding that Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood and Gumby are other possibilities.