×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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”:

More TV

  • Batwoman Arrow

    The CW's 'Batwoman' Pilot Switches Directors, Adds Dougray Scott

    The CW has added veteran Scottish actor Dougray Scott to its “Batwoman” pilot as well as swapped in Marcos Siega for previous director David Nutter, Variety has learned. The pilot, which stars Ruby Rose as the eponymous caped heroine, is being helmed by DC TV head Greg Berlanti, and was penned by “Vampire Diaries” alum [...]

  • OG Review

    Review: 'O.G.' on HBO

    Jeffrey Wright, the most compelling reason to watch HBO’s new film “O.G.,” is among television’s best actors at switching between codes or manners of being. On “Westworld,” his timeline-toggling android swaps personae so delicately that his performance gains in resonance when recalled in retrospect. (Perhaps that’s why Wright has been so oddly underrated through the [...]

  • Nahnatchka Khan Writers Room

    Nahnatchka Khan Exits 20th Century Fox TV for Overall Deal at Universal

    Nahnatchka Khan has signed a four-year overall deal at Universal Television. The deal brings an end to the decade-plus Khan and her Fierce Baby Productions banner spent at 20th Century Fox Television. The move will see Khan exit from her role as showrunner on ABC comedy “Fresh Off the Boat,” which she also created. The [...]

  • David Ajala

    'Nightflyers' Star David Ajala Joins CBS Drama Pilot 'Under the Bridge'

    David Ajala has been cast in a lead role in the CBS drama pilot “Under the Bridge,” Variety has learned. In the project, when a scandal rocks the medical practice she runs with her husband and their friends, a surgeon rises to the occasion and takes the lead in trying to mend both the practice and [...]

  • A Man Walks Into the Cnn

    CNN Puts Former Sessions Aide in Newsroom Role

    Sarah Isgur Flores, a press aide to former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has been hired to help coordinate political coverage for CNN, a move that generated some pushback on social media Tuesday. Politico previously reported the CNN hire. Flores in the past has criticized CNN coverage, even going so far as to refer to [...]

  • Gerald Blum, Inspiration for 'WKRP In

    Gerald Blum, Inspiration for 'Big Guy' Carlson on 'WKRP in Cincinnati,' Dies at 86

    Gerald “Jerry” Blum, the inspiration for the character of radio station general manager Art “Big Guy” Carlson on the long-running TV sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” died Saturday at 86. The Atlanta radio veteran was affectionately transformed into the fictional Carlson by veteran comic actor Gordon Jump on “WKRP,” which ran for four seasons on CBS [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content