During his hosting gig on the latest installment of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, former castmember Eddie Murphy brought back several of his beloved characters in addition to debuting a few new ones. It was a night full of throwbacks for Studio 8H.
First, Murphy reprised the “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood” sketch that he popularized during his original tenure on the show — a spoof on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. “So much has changed since we last spent some time together,” he said. “My neighborhood has gone through much. It’s called gentrification.”
“Now it’s just me by myself,” Murphy’s Mister Robinson added. “You’re probably wondering how Mister Robinson can afford to live in this fancy neighborhood.” Then he shared the word of the day: “squatter’s rights.”
Heidi Gardner and Mikey Day played Mister Robinson’s racist next-door neighbors who came by to ask if he knew anything about their missing television.
Another person knocked on the door claiming to be Robinson’s son. “Boys and girls, there’s a new company called 23andMe, and because of them, 23 people say they have a father who is me,” Murphy’s Robinson said.
In a parody of The Masked Singer, Beck Bennett played Robin Thicke, Kate McKinnon played Jenny McCarthy, Bowen Yang played Ken Jeong and Melissa Villaseñor played Nicole Scherzinger. A contestant dressed like a corn on the cob who sang “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” turned out to be Buckwheat, another of Murphy’s memorable characters. He used his “o-tay” catchphrase and got the lyrics wrong to a lot of popular songs.
“We’ve missed you these past 30 years, and it’s great to have you back,” Villaseñor’s Scherzinger said to Buckwheat.
Murphy then crashed the “Weekend Update” segment as his beloved green character Gumby. The comic appeared to be muted for a few seconds before making his entrance — the host had been censored throughout various moments on the show, including during the “Holiday Baking Championship” sketch, when his character exclaimed, “We can still win this shit!” He quickly put his hands over his mouth after uttering the curse word on live television.
“How the hell are you going to put on a show and not have me in the show until now!” he shouted, telling SNL castmember Colin Jost that Gumby should have been in every single sketch for the whole show. “I saved this show from the gutter,” Gumby asserted.
“I pass kidney stones with more personality than the two of you,” he jabbed to both Jost and Michael Che.
Velvet Jones, another of Murphy’s former characters who peddles get-rich-quick schemes, showed up in a new installment of “Black Jeopardy,” a recurring sketch featuring Kenan Thompson as the game show’s host. Murphy’s Jones tried promoting his inappropriate books during the game show, including one titled How to Be an Instagram Ho.
Murphy also performed in sketches that didn’t feature old characters. In a holiday-themed parody of baking shows, Cecily Strong said she created an elaborate Frozen cake that ended up not looking like Elsa at all. It also tasted horrible. “Is there garlic in this?” one of the judges asked.
Murphy played Mitch, a contestant who said he made a cake of Sonic Hedgehog that turned out to be hideous and disgusting. The comedian reacted to the cake coming to life, quickly quipping in an uncensored moment for the NBC show, “We can still win this shit!”
“I think I just made a lot of bad choices … I don’t just mean with the cake, I mean in general in life,” he added.
In a digital short, Murphy played a father giving a holiday toast to his family. The romantic and pleasant toast was intercut with scenes of Murphy fighting with his wife, played by Maya Rudolph, who appeared earlier in the show’s cold open, as well as other fraught scenes in stark opposition to the holiday cheer.
In a Christmas sketch, Murphy played an elf being interviewed by a fellow elf reporter about a polar bear breaking into the workshop and wreaking havoc. “The bears are coming for us!” he shouted, holding up a severed elf leg for proof.
During Murphy’s opening monologue, the host also was joined onstage by Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle.
Saturday’s gig marked Murphy’s third time as the host of SNL; his first came in 1982 while a castmember, while the second occurred in 1984, just six months after he’d left the show.