Eddie Murphy Rejected Offer to Play Cosby on ‘SNL 40,’ Says Norm Macdonald

Comedian Norm Macdonald took to Twitter Wednesday evening to share a long but fascinating account about the behind-the-scenes drama that preceded “Saturday Night Live’s” 40th anniversary extravaganza.

Eddie Murphy, who made a brief cameo on the NBC special, was approached to impersonate Bill Cosby in “Celebrity Jeopardy,” a skit Macdonald wrote and originally created for the show, but Murphy turned down the offer the night before the telecast.

Kenan Thompson eventually played Cosby in the revived sketch, which also featured Will Ferrell (Alex Trebek), Macdonald (Burt Reynolds), Darrell Hammond (Sean Connery) and Kate McKinnon (Justin Bieber).

“Among many other things, this show was to be the return of Eddie Murphy,” Macdonald wrote.

Macdonald went on to shower the “rock star” actor-comedian, now 53, with praise on Twitter for his immeasurable contribution to the NBC series in the early ’80s, when the lowly-rated “SNL” was nearly canceled.

“Eddie, the man who, in Lorne’s absence, kept the show alive. Singlehandedly…Every Saturday Night at 11:30 Eddie Murphy, a kid, would fill 90 minutes with comedy. Impossible.”

But his affiliation with the show would come to a standstill in the early ’90s when David Spade, during a segment on “Weekend Update” quipped, “Look children, a falling star,” as Murphy’s image was displayed in the background.

The actor-comedian was so upset by the joke, according to Macdonald, that he refused to attend the “SNL’s” 25th anniversary in 1999. He also turned down several hosting gigs.

“David is a very kind man,” said Macdonald, “but his remark was not.”

After more than 30 years, Murphy returned to the legendary halls of Studio 8H on Saturday night for rehearsal, to the surprise of “SNL” vets like Macdonald and Chris Rock.

“Rock says, ‘There he is. Like Ali in Zaire,'” Macdonald wrote.

As the A-list cast began to prep for Sunday’s primetime event, which drew over 23 million viewers, Macdonald pulled Murphy aside in a dressing room for an hour and tried to persuade him to do the “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch.

“When it’s over, I’m convinced he’ll do it,” thought the comedian.

Adding to the “SNL 40” drama over the weekend was the fact that Bill Murray was golfing across the country.

“With Bill Murray, golf always comes first,” Macdonald said.

To the relief of “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels, Murray eventually flew to New York to participate in sketches like his hilarious ode to “Jaws.”

Murphy, however, opted against the laughs.

According to Macdonald, he didn’t want to further shame Cosby–public enemy No. 1 on the Internet–who already faces a litany of sexual assault allegations for drugging and raping dozens of women.

“He knew the laughs would bring the house down,” Macdonald said of his decision. “(But) Eddie decides the laughs are not worth it. He will not kick a man when he is down.”

Wearing a blue suit, Murphy entertained the audience ever-so briefly after a warm introduction from Chris Rock, saying his “SNL” return was like “going back to my old high school, kind of.”

UPDATE: Cosby has subsequently thanked Murphy for his decision to decline the sketch.

Watch the ‘Celebrity Jeopardy’ sketch from “SNL 40”:

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  1. Good site you’ve got here.. It’s difficult to find
    high quality writing like yours these days. I honesstly appreciate
    individuals like you! Take care!!

  2. reed robinson says:

    thank you eddie for being a good sport

  3. BJ says:

    I am so PROUD of the decision Eddie Murphy chose!

  4. Rich says:

    It only sounds like that to someone who’s ignorant Yolanda. Choosing not to jump on the bandwagon or take potshots at someone doesn’t mean you approve of what they do. Especially when at this time, these are only allegations.

  5. Keith Diggs says:

    Dude, you nailed it. Bravo. If I could give you “LIKES” I would!!!

  6. Keith Diggs says:

    I APPLAUD Eddie for his decision which makes my esteem for him as a person grow by leaps and bounds. It is especially noteworthy that Eddie refused to pile on Bill Cosby as it was Cosby who caused Eddie so much angst with his moralistic haranguing in the early 80’s. This was the source of the Murphy joke, as Eddie played both sides of a conversation between himself and Richard Pryor, wherein Eddie complained that Cos’ had told him to stop cussin’ and Eddie as Pryor responded with , “Well you tell Bill to HAVE A COKE AND A SMILE AND SHUT THE F*CK UP”!

    This was a raw sore for Murphy as it was for many “blue” comedians, I applaud the MATURITY and GRAVITAS that Eddie Murphy is showing in this matter. I’m also quite frankly shocked, but in a good way.

  7. mary baird says:

    There’s not positive evidence that he did it. A lot of times one person has something against a person and thinking it’s a good way to get money, many more jump aboard. And the decision Eddie Murphy made was good either way. Not kicking someone when they are down is not a bad thing. And playing someone who could be found guilty of such charges may not be a good thing. I think it’s funny that this came out after all these years. Why did these women wait so long to talk? I’m not convinced. But I don’t really know the truth. At this point only Bill and these women know the real story. If he truly did do it, I sure hope they find out. If he didn’t, then I pray that that is found out too.

  8. Carer Green says:

    Good for Eddie Murphy for showing a little integrity. The Cosby-As-Serial-Rapist story has no more credibility than the McMartin Preschool Case of the late 1980s. It amazes me how Cosby went from Rapist to Insanely-Reckless-Serial-Rapist just about overnight, without anyone blinking an eye. When you factor in the number of victims who have come forward with the number that statistics tell us will never speak up, he has to have raped literally hundreds of women. With the MysteriousNamelessTastlessPills story having started in the late 60s, you can bet that throughout his career he’s been watched by people eager to Obtain Valuable Evidence against him. Note that no evidence has appeared. Note that Cosby-the-Serial-Rapist takes zero precautions against being caught. Consider the unlikelihood of a victim he has set up in a penthouse for frequent sexual assault NOT investing in a $500 video camera just to find out what the hell he’s been doing to her unconscious body. Look at his habit of having repeat encounters with victims who might actually have spent a whole $20 on a little cassette recorder that can easily be hidden in a purse so that they can get the snoring and humping on tape. Ask yourself in whose hotel room Janice Dickinson met with him (without her agent’s involvement) to discuss business: did she bring her pajamas to his room, or did he bring his Patchwork Raping Bathrobe to hers? I could go on and on. The story fell flat on its face months ago, but the public won’t see the absurdity of it until the media points it out to them. At that point they might actually start fact checking, which is their job. When Cosby dies, the mob will be directed to love him all over again, and this travesty will be seen for what it is. Meanwhile the media can carry on as if they never exploited mob mentality in the name of feminism. This scandal has set feminism back by decades. Cosby’s historical stature will only be strengthened by it. The mob seems intent on turning him into Jesus.

  9. Donna Marie Bellifemine says:

    Rather surprised and disappointed as to why Father Guido Sarducci was not included in one of the funniest scripts?

  10. loverain_99 says:

    Good for Eddie! I don’t like Bill Cosby but jokes about him are tasteless and make me sick. The ones it really hurts are the victims.
    Eddie does know what it’s like to be kicked while down. By other comedians, and usually not so funny… Great to see him back on SNL CLASS Eddie!

  11. legrandnj says:

    Commendable [Murphy]. He knows to well what that feels like [to be kicked when you’re down.

  12. crash says:

    Ironic Murphy wouldn’t kick Cosby when he was down, but had no trouble going after him in his “RAW” stand up performance movie.

    • Rich says:

      In RAW he recounted an incident that occurred when Cosby called him to chastise him. At the time Cosby was not dealing w/ the current allegations. In the SNL sketch, they made reference to his alleged drink spiking.

  13. CEO Sid says:

    It’s all starting to make sense. Hannibal Buress, the Black comedian whose joke about Bill Cosby being a rapist started a scandal, used to be a writer on the NBC show “30 Rock.” Tina Fey, who is the protegé of “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels, and Amy Poehler, another SNL upstart, made it very clear at the beginning of the scandal that they think Cosby is guilty. Back in the 80s, “SNL” almost got cancelled (Eddie Murphy saved the show) during the time that “The Cosby Show” and “A Different World” were NBC’s biggest hits. Cosby had a lot of leverage at NBC. Although Michaels introduced us to a lot of stars, Cosby had the Top 2 shows, so it makes sense why Michaels wouldn’t like Cosby. Fast forward to 2014, a Cosby scandal breaks as he is in negotiations with networks for a new show. Pay attention. The Bill Cosby scandal was created by Lorne Michaels and his flunkies.

    • jberlat says:

      Wow, that is quite a stretch. Comparing Prime time shows with late night shows.

      • Keith Diggs says:

        It’s kind of like GEORGE STEPHANOUPOLOUS planting the libtard “War Against Women” meme in the 2008 Republi-tard debate when completely out of the blue, with no one discussing anything CLOSE to the subject, he asked, “So will you limit access to contraception” and the baby murdering media cronies picked up their hatchets and went to work!!! I see what you did there. GOOD WORK.

  14. Eddie should know better than to show support to a man who drugged raped little girls. This isn’t JUST he said she said, it’s he said: 1, she said: 26. How many of them were underage, again?

  15. chris says:

    I hate that Eddie didn’t do a skit, but I also respect that he didn’t want to do Bill Cosby bad. Just like when Michael Jackson was down people made fun of him during his dark times so hard like they forgot who he was. Smh. Eddie could have performed a song

  16. Tim Graff says:

    I live in Canada not Bangladesh & am sick & tired of clicking on videos & seeing sorry this video is not available in your country… Get with it you Clowns!

  17. Good. Murphy is a classy guy. Kudos to his decision not to portray a man when he is down.

  18. Spankee says:

    Good for Eddie, shows he has class. I do wish they would have had a skit for him to do as when i saw he wasnt doing one I changed the channel.

  19. Lori Petrie says:

    Eddie…please come back and host the show at least once! :) Remind everyone how talented you are and bring a smile to our faces!

  20. Lori Petrie says:

    I too was disappointed that Eddie didn’t do a sketch I have to admit. As sappy as I am, I probably would have had tears in my eyes had he actually done a sketch and shown he was still one of the family. I get it that he looks arrogant when he does interviews, and through his refusal to do a skit. But the bigger issue here is the fact that as a society we are so quick to judge…and people always assume things are exactly the way they appear to be with celebrities (and everyone else for that matter), and will instantly label them as “arrogant,” “bitchy,” “diva,” “dick,” or whatever. Regardless of my feelings about Bill Cosby, I think it shows great character on Eddie’s part for not kicking a man when he is down just for an easy laugh. There are not many comedians out there who would have taken the high road like that.

  21. jberlat says:

    There was no entertainment. Eddie could have just been gumby for 2 minutes.

  22. Meera V says:

    Have been a Eddie Murphy fan for years and tuned on to SNL 40th anniversary show to see him and other greats. Really impressed with Eddie for being a gentleman. Did Loren really think that the Eddie who showcased Richard Pryor in his movie as a tribute would consider doing a nasty impression of Bill Cosby? Also, I have never seen any kind of parody or dig at any other SNL performer. Chevy Chase is a perfect example of one of SNL performers who would be a great subject for a parody, yet have not seen one. Clearly, Eddie had a reason to be offended especially when he practically carried SNL for several years. Go, Eddie! Thanks to Norman for letting us know what a class act Eddie is!

  23. Regardless of whether one believes the accusations against Cosby or not, it would be in poor taste for someone of Murphy’s stature to impersonate Cosby in a comedy sketch at this time. It would have been vulgar and demeaning for both impersonator and impersonated. Not that Murphy’s never done anything vulgar or demeaning in his life (HARLEM NIGHTS, anyone?), but I’m glad he backed out of this one.

  24. I was disappointed with Eddie Murphy when he was interviewed on the Red carpet. He was rude and arrogant there. Then contributing nothing to the show beyond his “presence” Now finding his reasons for his temper tantrum was a COMEDY skit where everyone was fair game to be slammed.
    Sorry Mr Murphy, you already fell in my book. Get over yourself.

  25. Dar Homer says:

    Thank you Mr. Murphy, for not further shame Cosby…. we need to show forgiveness … have we forgotten ‘how’ , , Thank you again Eddie…

  26. Very sad, but as always a sign of the times, that a lot of people think Bill Cosby is famous because of the Cosby show.

  27. Nate says:

    I have more respect for Eddie now. Way to go. Most people today would jump at the opportunity to make fun of a guy, just to get some laughs.

  28. I loved the SNL special, but may I just say what a treat it was to see Norm Mcdonald again!

  29. Kate says:

    I don’t know why Eddie Murphy was so thin skinned. He did hit a rough patch and Spade cruelly skewered everyone in his Hollywood segment. I remember him showing a picture of a model (Kristen McMenamy maybe?) and saying “remember when models were pretty?” He was heartless, but no one took it seriously. That’s what it was all about? And that crack about his old high school was telling, IMO. No one else at your old high school is famous, just you. It was weird.

  30. Koren says:

    “Murphy entertained the audience…” is a huge over statement. As a viewer I asked myself “Why did he bother to come back. His contribution was non-existent.” He can go back and play a jack-ass in the animation movies.

    • Kate says:

      That’s my point. Why was a big star like Murphy so bothered by a little nerd like Spade that it kept him off the show for all these years and made him act like a jerk at the reunion? It said more about Eddie than Spade. Just sayin.

  31. Munchkin says:

    Good for you, Eddie. A class act.

  32. leasrecovery says:

    So, in other words, Eddie Murphy is standing up for Bill Cosby. Bill Cosby, who’s an accused serial rapist? Really? Guess what Eddie Murphy, your career ended a long time ago and you missed your chance for a comeback or revival. Too big now to have to stoop to, God forbid, where you came from and where your career started. Maybe when you run out of money, Bill Cosby will step in and help you. Oh wait, he’ll probably be broke too, once he’s convicted and civil suits are filed against him. Maybe you can both go down together. Look children, a falling star!!

    • Geoffrey Martin says:

      I don’t think refusing to contribute to the onslaught of shaming Cosby is facing right now is the same thing as standing up for him. You can disagree with something or someone without wanting to, as MacDonald put it, kick him while he’s down. Good for him for having some class instead of contributing to the cacophony.

      • x says:

        I don’t think ‘shaming’ is the right word for what’s happening to Bill Cosby right now – that diminishes the severity of his as yet unproved in court, but highly probable CRIMES. Serious crimes. These crimes are not something to be ‘ashamed’ of – they warrant, if proved, a lengthy prison sentence. There’s a difference between ‘shame’ and JUSTICE. That is what people are calling for.

    • Brittany Lea says:

      No where in there did he say that he was standing up for him. He just wasn’t interested in continuing or adding to the public shaming of Bill Cosby already going on in the media. Just because you don’t want to use a situation to get laughs at someone else’s expense, does not mean you’re standing up for them, or you condone what they did. It means, that whether his career is over or not, he was just trying to be a decent human being. I’m not an Eddie Murphy fan, but I respect his decision.

  33. Words like “relevent” to shoot down a person’s talent or body of work never impress me. I actually agree with Murphy’s take on the Cosby thing but I also don’t understand his lack of prep in his appearance on the show.

  34. Bull rider says:

    This was the first time since I remeber in a long a journalistic piece didn’t throw anyone under the bus, maybe spade, who’s small enough to live under a bus. An enjoyable piece to read. Nice job Norm, thanks for laying the facts out.

  35. Texas Newshound says:

    Much respect to Eddie Murphy for his decision to not impersonate Cosby. Love ya, Eddie.

  36. Lori Ann says:

    I applaud you Eddie Murphy….Thanks for being you!!!

  37. Red Sam Rackham says:

    Eddie Murphy showed real class by refusing to jump on the “lets all pick on Cosby, the accused but unproven sex offender” bandwagon. Right on, Eddie! ☺

  38. fiddy says:

    Could they have stroked Eddie Murphy’s ego more on that episode? Seriously, the guy gets an intro as being so incredibly funny and basically just bows and asks for more praise then tells them to cut to commercial. What a douche. Hasn’t been funny for years.

  39. Tim Mahoney says:

    Every celebrity with any sense of their own self worth would not let one silly joke (look, a fallen star), influence their entire career, or the legacy they created at SNL. (has he never seen a Roast”?) What a friggin’ baby.

  40. Rick says:

    Not news!

  41. Don Cloud says:

    Well done Eddie. Heck Bill Cosby himself can’t play himself, at least not the persona he lead his fans to believe who he was.

  42. colig says:

    the hell with eddie murphy.he hasn’t been relevant since1985.

  43. John Harris says:

    Such a missed opportunity. The studio – and the 23 million viewers at home – would’ve gone bonkers seeing the return of Murphy-as-Cos (“Remember the kid with the purple sweater, who could run really fast?!?” NO WE DON’T, COS! Classic!).

    Another thing that bugs me: Murphy knew they were going to do the Cosby skit either with or without him. By still appearing on the program, isn’t Murphy still approving of its content (silence implies consent)? If the Cosby dig bothered him that much, why not take a real stand and say “remove Cosby altogether or I’m outta here”?

    Murphy is such a difficult man to read – a comedic genius, no doubt, but something is just not right with him these days. I don’t know if he realizes how much my generation is rooting for The Return of Eddie Murphy.

    • iamcanadian87 says:

      He is getting slammed for doing nothing already, can you imagine if he walked out on the reunion cause he didn’t like a skit? LOL…

  44. ploughking says:

    Guys, your miss attributed Norm as playing “(Burt Reynolds)” when it should have said “(Turd Ferguson)”

  45. Lisa says:

    Murphy is not the most upstanding man either. He’s denied his own child mothered by Mel B. But he won’t deny Bill Cosby! ‘Look children, a fallen star’!

  46. Helbells says:

    Oh yes, poor Cosby. Lest he gets kicked while he’s down… All this empathy for a rapist is very admirable.

    • Thoughtpolice says:

      He and Bill Cosby have had their differences (see RAW). He did not do it because they are buddies, or for empathy, he did it because the whole world is already rightly villifying Mr. Cosby. He didn’t need to do it for some cheap laughs or in the name of a “comeback”.

  47. ChokeValve says:

    What twaddle. It’s Murphy’s own image and past that ensnares him in having to make that decision of whether to play Bill Cosby or not. I don’t think the sketch required his presence and it was a good decision for him to not do it. Norm McDonald’s Burt Reynolds was, to me, the most SNL-ish thing about that Jeopardy sketch. No expert, but there you are. SNL’s parts are greater than it’s sum.

  48. cadavra says:

    The show was 3 1/2 hours. If he didn’t want to do Cosby, he could’ve done something else, like Gumby or James Brown. But he didn’t. He never intended to. He still believes he’s too big a star to do sketch comedy anymore, and this arrogance oozes out of his every pore. It’s why he truly is a fallen star, no matter how much residual good will he might still have with the Gen-Xers.

    • Everett says:

      Cadavra, you have the best comment on here. Amen! Murphy could have done any of his great SNL characters. I’m sure Lorne would have bent backwards to give him 5 minutes to do anything. Instead we got that ridiculously gushing and unfunny intro by Chris Rock, a standing ovation by the crowd as if Murphy was the second coming of Jesus, and then Murphy himself oozing arrogance, as Cadavra put it, in a $5,000 gorgeous three piece suit. And then his boring two minute unfunny speech. And for that we’re supposed to be grateful that he showed up. Compare that to Bill Murray who gives it his all and generously does several funny appearances. Murray is every bit as big a star as Murphy only Murray isn’t an arrogant prick like Murphy. Murray is the consummate good guy professional and for that we love him and hate Murphy.

    • darryl goodman says:

      If you read the account on Twitter, Eddie didn’t arrive until Saturday before the show. I’m sure you can understand how Lorne and the writers didn’t want to write a new sketch, rehearse, and change the whole show mere hours before the performance. I think if Eddie was ‘arrogant’ as you say, he could have demanded they do so. He pondered the idea, agreed, but then passed because he didn’t want to do that particular joke. Nothing wrong with that. If you had any experience in the industry, you’d probably know, or at least think deeper than the first level of appearances. Although I suppose Variety is partly to blame, since they are reporting it as ‘drama’ rather a ‘story’.

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