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Eddie Murphy made his return to Studio 8H at 30 Rock on Sunday night, but he did it without any impressions or any of the characters he made famous during his years on the show.
The actor and comedian followed a stand-up routine by fellow former castmember Chris Rock. But Murphy — who walked onstage to a standing ovation — spoke only briefly, and the end of his remarks featured an awkward pause as he threw to commercial, where it wasn’t clear if there was a technical glitch or something didn’t go quite as planned.
Murphy was on SNL in the early 1980s, and after his departure from the NBC sketch comedy series, he never returned. He declined to serve as a host and didn’t attend the 25th anniversary special, so his return Sunday night had been highly anticipated by fans, who took to Twitter to express their disappointment:
What was the Eddie Murphy thing? What just happened? #Snl40
— Billy Bush (@billybush) February 16, 2015
The only thing I got out of the Eddie Murphy appearance on #SNL40 is that black people really do age better than white people.
— Charlamagne Tha God (@cthagod) February 16, 2015
— Justin Stangel (@Justin_Stangel) February 16, 2015
Creator Lorne Michaels has confessed that he had made that mistake years earlier with Murphy, who at that time had had a string of box-office disappointments. Though SNL had stayed away from some of Murphy’s more personal stumbles, he and his writers had David Spade take a jab at his professional fumble, calling him a “falling star” in the 1990s.
“I figured it was kind of a clean hit. I didn’t really think about it, but Eddie did,” he said a couple years ago, recalling how Murphy then got hold of Spade by phone to voice his frustration. “You’re standing on my shoulders; you didn’t get to be there unless I was there,” Michaels remembered Murphy telling Spade, before adding of the decision to include the jab on his show, “It was a mistake on our part.”
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