Eddie Murphy Explains Refusal to Play Bill Cosby for SNL 40th
For as much hype as SNL garnered in returning so many past alum for its 40th anniversary special, Eddie Murphy’s long-awaited return seemed curiously brief. Norm MacDonald since explained that the revered comedian had declined to portray Bill Cosby in the all-star Celebrity Jeopardy sketch, and now Murphy himself explains the decision.
A lengthy profile with The Washington Post saw Murphy exploring a vast number of points in his career, among them the brief SNL 40 appearance that saw the onetime “Buckwheat” player thanking the crowd in attendance, without actually contributing to the sketches. We learned from Norm MacDonald’s subsequent Twitter insights that Murphy opted against portraying Bill Cosby, so as not to “kick a man when he is down,” the sketch role going to current senior cast member Kenan Thompson.
In his own words, Murphy admitted that he understood the inclination to mine humor from Cosby’s seemingly endless allegations of sexual misconduct, but not the benefit:
I totally understood. It was the biggest thing in the news at the time. I can see why they thought it would be funny, and the sketch that Norm [Macdonald] wrote was hysterical … It’s horrible. 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.’
At the time, MacDonald acknowledged his respect for Murphy’s decision, saying:
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.
Whether or not Murphy ever returns to SNL, did he make the right call to avoid a Cosby impersonation? Should SNL shy away from the bit in the future, or continue to claim fair game?
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