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. Since this marked the first time Murphy has graced the SNL stage in 35 years, the whole episode felt like a warm "Welcome Home" to the comedian.
Indeed, there were plenty of eyes on Murphy on his return to his old stomping ground. "This is the last [SNL] episode of 2019," Murphy said during his monologue. "But if you're Black, this is the first episode since I left back in 1984."
Before his hosting gig, Murphy appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where the comedian hinted he had something up his sleeve for Saturday night. "Oh yeah, I'm gonna do Gumby," the Dolemite Is My Name star told Kimmel. "And I'm trying to figure out some reason to do a Velvet Jones and Mister Robinson's Neighborhood." And it seems like he figured it out.
His Mr. Rogers parody was the first character reprisal of the night, which Murphy fans were pleased to see. And since it's been awhile since Mister Robinson was on the air, a few things have changed in his neighborhood. "The check cashing place turned into a bank / Elevator works, and the stairs, they don't stink," he sang with a cheeky grin. "The white people came and changed everything, but I am still your neighbor!" Indeed, now the character is struggling with gentrification and had to chase off his white neighbors after they vaguely accused him of stealing a package.
Like Mr. Rogers, Murphy's character teaches his young audience members lessons. "Can you say gentrification, boys and girls?" Mister 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."
Next came Buckwheat — against all odds, too, since he was killed off the last time he appeared on SNL. This time, the Little Rascals character appeared under a corn costume during a Masked Singer parody. Here, too, the cast's admiration for Murphy and his SNL legacy was explicitly written into the script. "Buckwheat, wait!" judge Nicole Scherzinger (Melissa Villaseñor) said. "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."
But Murphy was far from done: During Weekend Update, the comedian brought back his offensive and foul-mouthed toy Gumby, whose return in particular 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 you, Lorne Michaels! Shame on you, NBC! Shame on you!"
Last but not least, Murphy's Velvet Jones appeared during a rendition of the recurring sketch, "Black Jeopardy." The character's language isn't the most politically correct; however, even Jones' language was updated for today's climate — well, kind of. After he received the hypothetical situation, "Your Niece Shows Up to Christmas Dinner in a Cutoff Top," Jones responded that it's 2019 and he shouldn't judge her.
"Well that's very nice!" Kenan Thompson's Darnell Hayes said, surprised. "Welcome to the modern era, Mr. Jones." However, the nice sentiment was soon undercut by the pimp revealing the title of his new book: 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 for awhile and a lot of things have changed in his absence, the episode seemed to say that Eddie Murphy is still our neighbor.