The legendary comedian, who was famous for his Cosby impression during his stint on the NBC variety show in the early 1980s, was supposed to imitate Cosby in “Celebrity Jeopardy,” a skit fellow “SNL” alum Norm Macdonald wrote and originally created. Kenan Thompson eventually played Cosby in the revived sketch.
Murphy didn’t perform at all during “SNL 40,” instead opting for a brief “thank you” speech that was shorter than Chris Rock’s introduction of him.
“I totally understood,” he said, addressing the situation for the first time in an interview with the Washington Post. “It was the biggest thing in the news at the time. I can see why they thought it would be funny, and the sketch that Norm [Macdonald] wrote was hysterical.”
Despite the timelines of the topic, Murphy said he couldn’t stomach making jokes out of such a serious matter.
“It’s horrible,” he continued. “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, I’m not turning my moment on the show into this other thing.'”
Cosby later thanked Murphy for his decision to decline the sketch.
“I am very appreciative of Eddie, and I applaud his actions,” Cosby said in February.
Macdonald revealed on Twitter a few days after the episode aired that Murphy rejected the show’s offer to Cosby the night before the telecast.
“He will not kick a man when he is down,” Macdonald said of Murphy, who he tried to persuade to do the skit. “Eddie Murphy, I realize, is not like the rest of us. Eddie does not need the laughs.”
Here’s Murphy’s cameo on “SNL 40”:
Here’s the decidedly Murphy-free “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch: