After a string of unimpeachable movie hits (Coming to America), stand-up specials (Eddie Murphy Delirious), and dramatic work (Dreamgirls), Saturday Night Live comedy superstar Eddie Murphy largely retreated from the limelight starting in the mid-2000s. But now, Mr. Murphy is back with a vengeance and making some of the best work of his career.
He’s getting Oscar buzz for Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name. He’s making a sequel to Coming to America, called, appropriately, Coming 2 America. And for the first time in 35 years, as he explained on a Brooklyn-based episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Murphy’s returning to SNL to host. It’s a great time to be Eddie Murphy — and a great time to be an Eddie Murphy fan.
After reminiscing with Jimmy Kimmel about life growing up in Brooklyn (if you’ve never played “Hot Peas and Butter,” don’t! It sounds dangerous!), Murphy gets into the nitty-gritty of his SNL hosting plans. It’s a true moment of badass human history when Murphy’s first response to Kimmel’s question about hosting isn’t to say a word. Instead, he raises his hand in the air with a “number one” pointed up — and the crowd goes wild. When Kimmel — obviously nerding the heck out — asks Murphy if he’ll do any of his classic SNL characters,
Murphy responds brightly, “I hope so!” He promised to Kimmel that he’s gonna do Gumby, his bizarrely vulgar take on the classic claymation character (“I’m Gumby, dammit!”). He also revealed he’s interested in reviving Velvet Jones, his skeevy get-rich-quick TV host, and Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, his downright brilliant transportation of Mister Rogers into the inner city. However, we should likely take Murphy’s comments with a grain of salt, given SNL‘s bonkers production schedule. As he explained, “That show you can’t really prepare. It happens on the Monday and it’s over on Saturday. You can’t really get ready for it.”
The two comics also discussed Murphy’s return to stand-up. Which feels, as Kimmel put it, “a little bit like hearing Michael Jordan‘s gonna play basketball again.” In direct response to the audience’s uproarious cheers at the news, Kimmel asked Murphy if he was worried about tarnishing his legacy. Murphy’s response was composed and zen:
I don’t be worrying about stuff like that. I tend to think constructively when I’m thinking about something creative. I’m thinking about making it as funny as possible, because I wanna shut shit down when I do it. So I don’t be thinking, like, ‘Oh, what’s gonna happen? What are they gonna say? Are they gonna put me on the YouTube?’ That’s just part of the world now.
If you do see Murphy’s new act, don’t be surprised if he pulls out one of the oldest forms of comedy in the books: Ventriloquism. Murphy, apparently, has been a fan of throwing his voice into the body of a dummy since he was a little kid. In fact, he has two dummies of people he knows — and he’ll do them in front of the people they represent, including comedian Paul Mooney. You know what? If anyone can make ventriloquism work, it’s Murphy.
Check out Murphy and Kimmel’s full interview below, and enjoy Kimmel’s full-on endearing geekery, Murphy’s chill vibes, and a full-on roasting of an audience member who wasn’t laughing. For more on Murphy, here’s our review of Dolemite Is My Name.