The Surprising Reason Eddie Murphy Finally Wanted to Do ‘Saturday Night Live’ Again

Eddie Murphy was a fan favorite on Saturday Night Live but, except for a brief appearance on SNL for the show’s 40th anniversary tribute in 2015, he hasn’t been back in 35 years. Why did Murphy decide to host SNL after all these years?

Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix

Did Eddie Murphy save SNL?

Murphy was 19 years old when he joined SNL in 1980 and stayed until 1984, but it was a critical time for the show, which was on some shaky ground at the time.

Comedian Chris Rock credited Murphy with saving the show, sharing during SNL’s 40th anniversary special: “Out of nowhere, Eddie saved Saturday Night Live. If Saturday Night Live hadn’t hired Eddie Murphy, this show wouldn’t have lasted half as long as Baywatch.”

SNL co-creator Dick Ebersol, who returned as the show’s executive producer during Murphy’s run, told The Washington Post: “Eddie’s the single most important performer in the history of the show. He literally saved the show.”

Why Murphy is finally returning to SNL

Murphy will host SNL on Dec. 21, but why has it taken him so long to return to the show? The answer is simple enough — nostalgia.

During a Dec. 5 interview with Ellen DeGeneres, the talk show host asked him why he finally decided to host SNL after all these years. He explained, “They had the 40th anniversary a few years back and I went there and I saw everybody and I saw all the other actors and actresses and people in the crew and I got this big burst of nostalgia and I started feeling like ‘Oh, I want to go back.’”

He added: “I’ve been wanting to go back there since then. But wanted to go back at the right time.” The timing with Dolemite Is My Name, Murphy says, makes it the perfect moment.

Murphy is working on a stand-up comeback

Murphy has been plenty busy, with the Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name, which has garnered some Oscar buzz, and the upcoming Coming to America sequel. He’s also going to come full-circle with plans to return to stand-up.

He told DeGeneres he has to work out the material for a special, sharing, “I’m gonna start kinda working [it] out in the beginning of the year and then when it’s ready, you know, I’ll try to give myself eight or nine months to get it ready.”

When images of Murphy in his old stand-up leather suits were shown, the comedian noted, “I haven’t been back in years and I won’t be wearing anything like that… Lord have mercy.”

He also discussed how stand-up had evolved when he was doing it, remarking, “Stand-up comedy, when we started, you know the biggest gig was opening for somebody or a sitcom or something but over the last 30 years stand-up turned into this big mainstream [thing]. It’s like as popular as becoming a singer.”

Murphy added: “When we started it was like, if you were saying you were a comic, it was like being a juggler or a magician or something. Now it’s this mainstream thing.”