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On December 21, 2019, Eddie Murphy returned to a big part of his past in an unforgettable way. That night, the household-name actor and comedian hosted Saturday Night Live, marking only his second appearance on the show since he left its main cast in 1984 and embarked on his storied run of name-making film, stand-up, and voice acting appearances. Whereas his return in 2015 was only brief, for his 2019 appearance, he hosted the entire episode, appearing in the vast majority of the night’s sketches and breaking the internet in the process (as did two performances from 2019’s biggest musical breakout).
Eddie Murphy hosting SNL wasn’t just any old host gracing the stage, though December’s hosts were remarkable. It was an iconic moment for an iconic show. Here are some of the most notable moments from Murphy’s return to Studio 8H, many of which involve the revival of his most beloved SNL characters.
The opening monologue
One of the most anticipated moments for any SNL host is the opening monologue. These introductory speeches set the tone for the episode, remind viewers why the host is so special, and sometimes relate directly to what the host is promoting. Murphy’s monologue achieved all the above.
As Murphy spoke, the gradual appearance of additional Black men who have gone on to fame after SNL (Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan) and one who remains on the show (Kenan Thompson) hinted that some of the night’s sketches would focus on Black issues. It also pointed to the legacy Murphy established both within and outside SNL. During his monologue, Murphy also briefly mentioned his new Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name, which has received extensive critical acclaim.
The return of Mr. Robinson
Eddie Murphy’s episode of SNL wasted no time diving right into social issues. The night’s very first sketch revived beloved Murphy SNL character Mr. Robinson, who delved into the ramifications of gentrification in an uproarious, laugh-out-loud way. With both humor and gravitas, the sketch wisely explored the relationship between middle-to-upper-class white people who move into predominantly Black neighborhoods and the people who have lived there for decades.
The holiday sketch
In one especially memorable sketch, Murphy played a father whose family has gathered for the holidays (and Maya Rudolph’s guest-starring role was yet another welcome return from another prominent SNL alum). The sketch explored elements with which everyone is familiar, such as the stress of preparing to host a big family dinner and how that contrasts the jovial environment of the gathering. It also handled interracial marriage with alternate subtlety and aplomb, analyzing this union from the perspective of a Black family rather than spotlighting a white family’s racism. This gentle touch felt especially refreshing given how forthright the episode could sometimes be.
The Weekend Update gag
Speaking of forthright, on this episode’s Weekend Update, hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che went at each other with vicious, cutthroat jokes about, among other topics, race. These remarks, though clearly meant as jokes, were not nearly as lighthearted as Eddie Murphy returning to SNL as Gumby during this Weekend Update. As ever, Murphy’s Gumby stretched the limits of the iconic children’s character in a hilarious but not heavy manner.
What were your favorite parts of Eddie Murphy’s return to SNL? Sound off in the comments!