This past Saturday, Eddie Murphy’s return to the show that made him for the first time in 35 years had everybody buzzing. Murphy, who has been described as having saved the show back when he was a cast member from 1980-1984, didn’t come back alone, either. He brought back some of his favorite characters from his tenure.
Since the show was announced back in September, Eddie has been doing the press circuit for his new film Dolemite Is My Name, and talking about wanting to bring back all of his classic characters. So we already had an idea of who might be back, and luckily he was a man of his word.
Mr. Robinson was the first one to come back, which now served as a conversation on the gentrification of the neighborhood we knew him best from. Following that was Buckwheat competing on The Masked Singer. Velvet Jones, the infamous pimp who taught us all how to “be a ho”, appeared on Black Jeopardy, and like Mr. Robinson wasn’t quite ready for the changing of the times. But it was Gumby’s return to the show during Weekend Update that not only worked the best out of the bunch, but brought a certain freshness to the table. So much so, we really wish Gumby would become a regular commentator on the show again (or at least get his own news show). And that’s not even mentioning his monologue, sprinkled with legendary status that included Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Tracy Morgan, and Kenan Thompson. “Right here is half of Netflix’s budget,” Chappelle joked.
But the thing that most reminded us the most of who Eddie Murphy was at the height of his fame had nothing to do with any past characters. It was actually a new sketch that best captured the magic that viewers felt back in the 1980’s.
This sketch, a classic “5 to 1”, follows a North Pole centric news program interviewing elves about a fire at Santa’s workshop. Pretty standard premise, but what truly brought the sketch to life was Murphy’s elf character that would be right at home alongside the “‘Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That” lady. In a rapid fire delivery, Murphy tries his best to recount what happened, but instead making less and less sense the more he speaks.
Overall, the episode wound up being the highest rated one in years, and with good reason. If nothing else, it reminded us just how important the legacy of SNL is to our cultural and comedic zeitgeist, and just how much our sensibilities are forever changed as a result.