More than three decades after his last appearance on Saturday Night Live, Eddie Murphy returned to the SNL stage for the show’s 40th anniversary special. The audience greeted Murphy with a standing ovation but before they were even able to get comfortable in their seats again, Murphy’s appearance was over.
For some viewers who tuned in just to see Murphy make a triumphant return to the iconic comedy stage, they were met with disappointment when Murphy did nothing more than thank the crowd, clap his hands and awkwardly tell the floor director that it was time to cut to the next segment.
Comedy legend Chris Rock had the honors of introducing Murphy and delivered a beautiful introduction that was more than three times longer than Murphy’s actual appearance.
Rock discussed how Murphy made him realize that comedy could be a career and even told the audience how Murphy’s debut on the show more than three decades ago saved Saturday Night Live from what many believed would be sure cancellation.
With an introduction that clearly focused on Murphy’s comedic greatness, the all-star crowd was prepared for what was supposed to be one of the most memorable moments in comedy history.
Things didn’t play out the way the audience expected—though in retrospect the appearance was memorable, albeit for the wrong reasons.
Murphy made his way down the steps and on to the stage as he clapped his hands.
The 53-year-old comedian then paced the stage, still clapping, as Rock stood off to the side.
“This show is such a big part of who I am and my life,” Murphy said. “And I’m so happy to be back here. It’s a magical feeling.”
He compared the feeling to being back at his old high school before clapping again and telling the crowd to get ready for some more show.
“I will always love this show and let’s have some more show,” he said. “Let’s have a big round of applause everybody.”
The round of applause was noticeably weaker this time around. Murphy then looked into the camera and mentioned that he thought producers were going to cut to the segment as the audience started clapping.
Producers didn’t seem to respond much to Murphy’s confusion so he simply tried the round of applause again.
“Then let’s do it again,” he said as he started clapping. “You know this has been a hell of a night. A real magical evening.”
As Murphy delivered the final lines, the camera panned out and the screen faded to a title card advertising Dick Ebersol, the former head of NBC Sports.
Nobody mentioned the bizarre appearance for the rest of the show.
Social media users, however, couldn’t help but take note of the incredibly short appearance that lacked even the slightest attempt at a joke.
“Eddie Murphy on full ‘I’m just here so I don’t get fined,’ “ @jsmooth995 tweeted.
A parody Bill Walton account suggested that Murphy didn’t attempt to make a comedy return because he simply wasn’t the funny man he was years ago.
“For those of you surprised at Eddie Murphy, you must have forgotten this is the old guy who made Norbit, not the young kid who made Delirious,” the user tweeted.
Another user shared an image of Marshawn Lynch with an emotionless stare and wrote, “Me, for 5 minutes after the Eddie Murphy segment.”
Instead of focusing on the SNL appearance, others just reminded people of what a legend the comedian was and still is.
“We regularly forget what an unreal talent eddie murphy is,” @bomani_jones tweeted. “remember: Beverly hills cop came out when he was 23. TWENTY-THREE!”
Even SNL’s own Twitter page showed nothing but love for Murphy.
“Welcome home, Eddie,” they tweeted. “Standing ovation for Mr. Murphy #SNL40.”
Producers clearly weren’t pleased with the awkward appearance, however. The video shared by Saturday Night Live cuts just before Murphy’s awkward moment telling the floor director he thought they were going to cut during the applause.
Third parties managed to get the entire clip online thanks to YouTube.
Meanwhile, some might not be surprised by the strange return as it’s been known that Murphy wasn’t necessarily on good terms with the Saturday Night Live team.
While he insisted in the past that there was no bad blood between him and the people behind the show, he made it clear that he was upset with the jokes they made about him after he left the show.
On one episode, a skit referred to Murphy as a “falling star.”
“What really irritated me about it at the time was that it was a career shot,” Murphy said during an interview back in 2011. “It was like, ‘Hey, come on, man, it’s one thing for your guys to do a joke about some movie of mine, but my career? I’m one of you guys.”
He later insisted that he wasn’t still upset over the joke or the other allegations of mistreatment after he left the show, but Sunday night’s performance might suggest otherwise.
Regardless of what his intentions may have been, many fans of the comedian were let down, confused and disappointed that the comedian didn’t seem to care during what was supposed to be an iconic moment in SNL and comedy history.