Eddie Murphy’s estrangement from Saturday Night Live finally came to an end on Saturday, as the legendary comedian who spent five years as a cast member on the show made his return to studio 8H after 35 years. The huge audience who tuned in—the show had its best ratings in two-and-a-half years—was treated to a solid episode full of characters Murphy first introduced during the Reagan administration.
The first post-cold open sketch got things started with a bang. “Mister Robinso’s Neighborhood, a parody of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that was so funny in its time that Fred Rogers himself was a fan. This is the sketch that probably did the best job of bringing a character from the ’80s into the present, as the somewhat profane children’s show host had a lot to say about the gentrification of the neighborhood.
Murphy did well as a particularly terrible contestant on a baking show, which he followed with an amazingly relatable holiday short. In the spirit of last week’s “Children’s Clothing Ad,” the show found comedy gold in the indignities we all agree to put up with during the holiday season, from farting uncles to shitty air mattresses.
Murphy brought back Buckwheat as a contestant in The Masked Singer, which sort of worked. More successful was Gumby’s return on Weekend Update; his obstinacy aged well even if you can’t smoke on stage anymore.
“Black Jeopardy!” was made for Murphy and Velvet Jones, his over-the-top pimp/self-help book author was a more than worthy replacement for the typical clueless white person who normally serves as the butt of the jokes in the sketch.
Murphy didn’t reprise any old characters in the final sketch of the show, but it was still hilarious, a simple excuse for Murphy as a disgruntled elf to rail against Santa, spread conspiracy theories, and somehow deliver lines like “We’re defenseless, and we’re small, we’re adorable, and we’re chewable!” without cracking up.
All in all, this was a consistently funny, well-rounded episode that can only be considered a triumphant return for Murphy despite the glaring omission of a celebrity hot tub party hosted by James Brown, something he’ll hopefully correct the next time he hosts the show.