Remote Hog

Saturday Night Live
8:30 tonight

Come jump up on your Unc's knee and lemme take you back to the year One-Nine-Eight-Naught, Autumn I believe it 'twas, that a wet-behind-his-ears lad from Roosevelt, New York—went by the name of Eddie Murphy—begged a Saturday Night Live talent scout to get him an audition. He was rejected, but Eddie kept badgering the poor sap until he got that shot and, making his debut in the 1980-81 season—the beginning of what TV historians refer to as the NBC show's “Sucky Years”—Murphy went from little-used extra, to “Weekend Update” commentator Raheem Abdul Muhummad (“Shut up!”) to a national sensation. Now, you know Eddie Murphy today from his roles in the kiddie remakes of Doctor Dolittle and The Nutty Professor, but I want you to try and imagine a funny Eddie Murphy. 'Cause he was the Funniest Man in the Land—later passing that torch to fellow African-American comics Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. Murphy's SNL characters—Buckwheat, Gumby, Stevie Wonder, James Brown and the title character of Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood—were so sublime that it seemed Murphy was in just about every skit (usually with his sidekick Joe Piscopo; trust me, there is a person named Joe Piscopo walking this earth). In fact, Murphy set two SNL milestones with the December 11, 1982, broadcast. Already snatched up by Hollywood, he was set for just another week as a Not Ready for Primetime player with guest host Nick Nolte, who would promote the Nolte-Murphy flick 48 Hrs. But Nolte fell ill at the last minute, so Murphy became the first cast member to host while still a regular—and the first black host as well. The decision by producers to have their young stallion host reportedly did not go over well with other cast members, who by then were already chagrined playing supporting roles to Murphy's main characters every week. He probably didn't help matters when he opened the show with, “Live from New York, It's the Eddie Murphy Show!” It was—and this “Best of Eddie Murphy” collection shows you why it should have been. Wonder whatever happened to that guy?

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