Eddie Murphy passed on the Cosby gag on "SNL 40" because "you're hurting him, you’re hurting his accusers"

The comedy legend also opened up about future film projects and a possible return to stand-up

By Anna Silman
Published October 14, 2015 2:12PM (EDT)
Eddie Murphy         (NBC)
Eddie Murphy (NBC)

In a revealing new profile in The Washington Post, Eddie Murphy opened up about his much-discussed decision not to play Bill Cosby on “Saturday Night Live’s” 40th anniversary special last February.

According to Norm Macdonald, Murphy was supposed to play Bill Cosby in the “Celebrity Jeopardy” skit that aired during the special. Ultimately, Murphy backed out and Kenan Thompson took the gig instead. Murphy appeared on the show for a brief 70-second tribute/applause break, but did not appear in any sketches.

"He knew the laughs would bring the house down. Eddie Murphy knows what will work on 'SNL' better than any one,” Macdonald tweeted at the time. "Eddie decides the laughs are not worth it. He will not kick a man [Cosby] when he is down. Eddie Murphy, I realize, is not like the rest of us. Eddie does not need the laughs.”

Talking to the Washington Post’s Geoff Edgers, Murphy — who doesn’t tweet or Instagram — seemed surprised about the hype surrounding his decision not to perform on “SNL,” but explained that he chose not to do the impression because it was hurtful, both to Cosby and his victims.

“I totally understood,” said Murphy. “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.”

But ultimately, Murphy’s conscience told him no.

“It’s horrible,” he says. “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.’ ”

Murphy also opened up about his upcoming projects, including a new comedy album that he describes as being "like ‘Sgt. Pepper’s,” but featuring sketches and vignettes in addition to music. Murphy has also written three film scripts: A parody of “12 Years a Slave,” “Roots” and superhero movies called “Buck Wonder, Super Slave” (which sounds awfully reminiscent of Chris Rock’s fake slavery drama "Uprize!" in “Top Five”), as well as an “R-rated talking animal movie and a film about two brothers who inherit a black circus."

Oh, and the cherry on top of it all? Murphy says he is considering a return to stand-up. This would be a huge deal, considering he hasn't performed for a live audience since 1987, the year he came out with his legendary stand-up special “Raw.”

While nothing is for certain, Murphy's friend and fellow comic Arsenio Hall shared an anecdote about hanging out with Murphy recently when "a good [comedy] bit emerged." While Hall wanted to use it in his act, Murphy claimed dibs. As Hall puts it: “As long as a comic is holding onto a joke, that’s a man who’s thinking about it.”

Read more at the Washington Post.

Eddie Murphy Turns Down Bill Cosby SNL Skit

Anna Silman

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