When Eddie Murphy left Saturday Night Live in 1984, he left for good, declining offers to return and host the show, and becoming one of the few alumni who didn’t participate in James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales’ retrospective book Live From New York. But for reasons known only to Murphy, his relationship to the show has now warmed up to the point that he will return for SNL’s 40th anniversary special on February 15.
“It’s just timing. It just never worked out where the timing was right for me to do it,” Murphy said to News One by way of explaining why he’s been away for so long, and why he’s suddenly available now. Of course, there have been hints of other reasons in the past, such as when he told Rolling Stone in 2011, “They were shitty to me on Saturday Night Live a couple of times after I’d left the show. They said some shitty things. There was that David Spade sketch [when Spade showed a picture of Murphy around the time of Vampire In Brooklyn and said, “Look, children, a falling star”]. I made a stink about it, it became part of the folklore… I felt shitty about that for years, but now, I don’t have none of that. I wouldn’t go to retrospectives, but I don’t let it linger.”
The four years since seemed to have healed those wounds even further, setting up a return for the show’s breakout star in the early ’80s, and the cast member who’s widely credited with saving the show from cancellation after the original cast left. Murphy’s characters like sketchy children’s show host Mr. Robinson, a faded and jaded Gumby, and a grown-up (but still unintelligible) Buckwheat from The Little Rascals, plus his dead-on impressions of James Brown and Stevie Wonder, made Murphy a household name and launched him to movie stardom. Murphy went out on a high note: His final sketch was the classic “White Like Me” short. Now he’s finally ready to return for a victory lap.