It’s been thirty-five years since Eddie Murphy performed on SNL, and this Saturday, the legendary comedian will be back to host the show (with musical guest, Lizzo). Though Murphy made a brief appearance on SNL’s big 40th anniversary special in 2015, he hasn’t played a character in a sketch since 1984. Murphy was a cast member from 1980 to 1984. During that time, his fame skyrocketed, leading to big movies like 48 Hrs., Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop.
But it’s Saturday Night Live that Murphy has to thank for the career he’s forged. Playing some of the show’s most iconic characters, like Mister Robinson in a Mister Rogers parody, Gumby, and Buckwheat (whom Murphy had assassinated during an episode), Murphy was the highlight of the show during an otherwise underwhelming era. His “White Like Me” sketch was one of the most controversial and buzzed about in SNL’s history.
Murphy’s career continued to rise in the 1990s, thanks largely (no pun intended) to The Nutty Professor. But aside from 2001’s Shrek and a few other projects, the past two decades have not been friendly to Murphy. In fact, until this year, he hadn’t seen a theatrical release since 2012’s A Thousand Words, which was a box office flop. But then came Dolemite Is My Name. The Netflix comedy (which had a limited theatrical run) about blaxploitation actor/filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore has thrust Murphy back into public consciousness. And deservedly so. Murphy is phenomenal in the film, reminding us of his comic prowess and ability to disappear into a role. He appears to be capitalizing on this career resurrection, with three forthcoming sequels on the way: Coming 2 America in 2020, Triplets (a sequel to 1988’s Twins), and Beverly Hills Cop 4.
We’ll see what sorts of characters Murphy takes on this weekend, as the show figures to be among this season’s highest rated episodes. You can check out the deliberately humorless promo below.