Saturday Night Live: Can Eddie Murphy overcome the hype?

Eddie Murphy (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix)
Eddie Murphy (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix) /

Eddie Murphy returns to Saturday Night Live to host one of the most highly anticipated shows in years.

It was announced months ago but the time has finally arrived: Eddie Murphy is hosting Saturday Night Live. 35 years after his last appearance, one of the all-time greats returns to Studio 8H and with him comes more hype than SNL has seen in years.

Saturday Night Live announced Murphy’s return back in August, months before season 45 even started. The announcement immediately got SNL fans both old and new excited for what was to come. The cherry on top came when Dec. 21 was revealed as Murphy’s episode, meaning that the legend was back for the Christmas episode.

Eddie Murphy’s return couldn’t come at a better time for Saturday Night Live. The show has fallen flat more times than not this season. High points have come during the premiere hosted by Woody Harrelson and the return of Will Ferrell as host for the fifth time. But overall, the season has been heavy on cameos that earn more applause than laughter.

Bringing back Murphy to host is a surefire way for SNL to get publicity and excite fans in an authentic way. This isn’t a stunt or an out-of-the-box choice for a host that could backfire like Donald Trump. And it’s bigger than just bringing back a former cast member. Yes, Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, and Ferrell bring buzz to the show when they return. But Murphy coming back to host after 25 years is much more similar to when Adam Sandler returned last year. It will be must-see television.

But will the hype be too much to overcome? Are expectations too high? Is it unfair to expect or hope that Eddie Murphy will revive season 45? These are all legitimate questions heading into Saturday night but it’s not just up to Murphy to deliver.

The live audience will be eager to laugh and celebrate Murphy being back on SNL. That means that even so-so material has a better chance to land when Murphy is the one delivering it. Still, it must be both nerve-racking and exciting for the writers to have a comedy talent and SNL icon like Murphy in the building.

Longtime SNL fans who watched Murphy in the 1980s may be tuning back into the show for the first time in a while. Hopefully the writers don’t rely too heavily on the nostalgia factor. Yes, this could be a chance to honor Murphy’s contributions to the show. But that was done during the SNL 40th anniversary special.

Earlier this year, Murphy suggested that he had a few ideas for how to bring back some of his fan-favorite characters. Murphy should take inspiration from Sandler and choose just one to revive the way Sandler brought Opera Man back to “Weekend Update.” Doing so ensures that SNL stays fresh and current while also letting Murphy surprise audiences and bring something new and unexpected to the table.

This should also be a week in which Saturday Night Live puts a hold on cameos. The night should be all about Eddie Murphy. Sunday should be all about sharing sketches featuring Murphy, not another cold open that relied on a celebrity guest star to go after President Donald Trump. The anticipation of seeing Murphy’s return and it being the Christmas episode makes things special enough.

There is also the question of where Murphy is as a performer in 2019. Earlier this year, he starred in the Netflix movie Dolemite Is My Name. Murphy earned himself a Best Actor nomination for both the Critics’ Choice Awards and Golden Globes. So we know that Murphy can still deliver but at the same time, live sketch comedy is much different than acting in a film.

If you saw Murphy’s appearance on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, then you know that he has been working on stand-up again. Getting in front of an audience and working out new material is obviously great preparation for hosting Saturday Night Live. Murphy will no doubt be compared to his younger self, meaning he will be competing against himself whether that is fair or not. At the end of the day, Murphy is too big of a talent and too skilled as a comedian to fail when it comes time to perform.

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The buzz surrounding this week’s episode of Saturday Night Live is unlike anything else fans have seen in years. It’s a testament to Eddie Murphy’s popularity and the impact he had not just on SNL but on comedy. What do you expect from Murphy in his return? Let us know in the comment section and be sure to check back with Last Night On for all the highlights.