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Saturday Night Live recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with a huge special that garnered huge ratings for NBC. While the whole affair was nonstop hilarity, some of the most fun moments came from past SNL greats. One appearance that had viewers twitterpating in anticipation was that of Eddie Murphy, who has largely been out of the spotlight over the past several years. Murphy withdrew from participating in any sketches and stuck to addressing the audience, but Norm Macdonald revealed in the aftermath of the special that Murphy was almost involved in one of the biggest sketches of the night, though he chose not to play the assigned part: Bill Cosby.
Murphy had this to say about his decision not to take on Cosby for the night, according to The Washington Post:
It’s horrible. There’s nothing funny about it. If you get up there and you crack jokes about him, you’re just hurting people. You’re hurting him. You’re hurting his accusers. I was like, ‘Hey, I’m coming back to SNL for the anniversary, but I’m not turning my moment on the show into this other thing.'
It’s no surprise that Eddie Murphy is the first person that writer of the sketch Norm Macdonald thought of for the role. Murphy’s impression of Bill Cosby was legendary during his stint on SNL. With Bill Cosby recently making headlines due to the allegations of sexual assault (that pretty much everybody can agree are not funny), though, Murphy’s reticence to lampoon the man is not one that anybody can hold against him. Besides, any amount of Eddie Murphy on screen is always better than no Eddie Murphy on screen.
Of course, Murphy’s decision not to take part in the sketch did not prevent the sketch from hitting the airwaves. The return of SNL’s version of Celebrity Jeopardy was one of the absolute highlights of Will Ferrell's time on the show, and it was one of the most talked about sketches from the entire special. In addition to Ferrell as the long-suffering Alex Trebek, Norm Macdonald and Darrell Hammond reprised their unforgettable Celebrity Jeopardy roles as, respectively, an unfocused Burt Reynolds and the baselessly belligerent Sean Connery. Eddie Murphy’s intended role as Bill Cosby in a Video Daily Double was taken on by current SNL cast member Kenan Thompson.
Kenan Thompson was funny enough in the gag, and nobody wearing a good old-fashioned Bill Cosby sweater is physically incapable of bringing a few laughs, but we can’t help but wonder just what could have been if Eddie Murphy had felt comfortable bringing his own impression of Cosby back to the screen once more. We can only hope that Murphy will someday make a return to SNL that will be as funny as his glory days on the small screen.