Eddie Murphy Reveals the Surprising ‘Saturday Night Live’ Sketch That Saved His Job

Eddie Murphy survived a very shaky time in Saturday Night Live’s history — and this one sketch actually saved him from getting fired. In a web series for SNL following his return to host the show, the comedian reflected on his time with SNL and how a sketch involving him eating dog food saved him from the chopping block.

Tracy Morgan, Eddie Murphy, and Chris Rock
Tracy Morgan, Eddie Murphy, and Chris Rock | Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Murphy joined the cast of Saturday Night Live during a period of upheaval

There was a time when Saturday Night Live was facing cancelation — in the early 1980s, the show’s creator/producer Lorne Michaels left, as did the show’s original cast and writers. 19-year-old Murphy joined the cast initially as a featured cast member but was promoted to a series regular.

At the end of season six, which suffered in the ratings, the show’s executive producer cleaned house, except for Murphy and Joe Piscopo. In the show’s seventh season, Murphy’s star was on the rise, as he created characters like Buckwheat, Gumby, Velvet Jones, and Mister Robinson.

Murphy was credited with saving SNL

If Murphy hadn’t joined the cast, the show might not have lived beyond that sixth season. James A. Miller, coauthor of Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers and Guests, told ThinkProgress in 2015, “He saved the franchise.”

Miller continued: “I think there are a lot of arguments to be made over who may have been the best cast member or the funniest cast member, but I think 19-year-old Eddie Murphy hopped on Saturday Night Live at a time when its future was very uncertain. It was a time when it was without its godfather, Lorne Michaels. It was a time when there weren’t a lot of other standouts in the cast… Many others played critical roles in SNL reaching 40 years on the air. But Eddie was vital.”

This is the sketch that saved Murphy’s job

In the first episode of Saturday Night Live’s web series Stories From the Show, featuring interviews with former and present cast members, Murphy reflected on what it was like for him that first season after Lorne Michaels and the original cast left. He recalled: “You would walk down the street and people are like, ‘You on the new Saturday Night Live? Y’all ain’t s**t!’”

Murphy also shared how the show replaced almost the entire cast after his first season with the show, but he miraculously made the cut. The comedian explained that head writer Michael O’Donoghue “came in and fired everybody” except him and Piscopo.

The reason? Murphy did a bit on “Weekend Update” where he ate dog food and O’Donoghue was a fan. Murphy shared: “When O’Donoghue fired everybody, he came in and he said, ‘The only reason Murphy didn’t get fired is because he ate that dog food!’”

Turns out it wasn’t dog food, but Murphy had to stay mum about the truth. He explained: “And I was like, ‘But that wasn’t dog food, that was hash!’ And he looked at me like, What the f**k? But it was too late, and I kept the show … If he had known that was hash, none of this would be happening.”