During his four-year tenure at SNL, Eddie Murphy played memorable characters like Mister Robinson, Gumby, Velvet Jones, and Buckwheat, all of which he reprised in his triumphant return to Studio 8H on Dec. 21. This has been the first time the comedian has graced the SNL stage in the past 35 years, so the whole episode felt like a warm "Welcome Home" to Murphy.
After Murphy’s interview with Jimmy Kimmel, fans knew that he had something up his sleeve for Saturday night. "Oh yeah, I’m gonna do Gumby," the comedian told Kimmel. "And I’m trying to figure out some reason to do a Velvet Jones and Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood."
Murphy’s Mr. Rogers parody was the first character to be reprised. And since it’s been awhile since he was on the air, a few things have changed for Mr. Robinson. "The check cashing place turned into a bank / Elevator works, and the stairs, they don’t stank / The white people came and changed everything, but I am still your neighbor!" he sang with a cheeky grin. Indeed, now he’s struggling with gentrification and has to chase off his white neighbors who vaguely accuse him of stealing a package in front of their door.
Like Mr. Rogers, Murphy’s character teaches his young audience members lessons. "Can you say gentrification, boys and girls?" Mr. Robinson asked while he tied his shoes. "It’s like a magic trick. White people pay a lot of money, and then poof! All the black people are gone." Naturally, Murphy fans were pleased to see this beloved character return.
Next came Buckwheat — against all odds, too, since he was killed off the last time he appeared. The Little Rascal character appeared under a corn costume during a Masked Singer parody. Here, too, the cast’s admiration for Murphy and his SNL legacy was written into the script. As judge Nicole Scherzinger (Melissa Villaseñor) said, "Buckwheat, wait! We just want you to know we’ve missed you these past 30 years. We love you, and it’s good to have you back."
Then, during Weekend Update, Murphy brought back the offensive and foul-mouthed toy Gumby. This particular appearance felt like commentary on Murphy’s SNL career. "I am the one that made that Eddie Murphy a star!" the toy huffed. And when Michael Che told Gumby that audiences might not know who he is, Murphy’s character exclaimed, "I saved this damn show from the gutter. And it’s thanks to me — this is the thanks that I get for saving the show? Shame on your Lorne Michaels! Shame on you NBC! Shame on you!"
Velvet Jones then appeared during a rendition of SNL‘s popular sketch, "Black Jeopardy." Since he’s a pimp, the character’s language isn’t the most politically correct. However, even Jones’s language has been updated for 2019. After he receives the category, "Your Niece Shows Up to Christmas Dinner in a Cutoff Top," Jones responds that it’s 2019 and you shouldn’t judge her. "Well that’s very nice!" Kenan Thompson’s Darnell Hayes says. "Welcome to the modern era, Mr. Jones." However, the nice sentiment is soon undercut by the pimp showing the title of his new book, titled, How to Be an Instagram Ho.
After such a long time away, there was a lot riding on Murphy’s SNL episode. However, it was a triumph. And while he may have been gone from Studio 8H for awhile, the episode seemed to say, Eddie Murphy is still our neighbor.
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