Eddie Murphy refused to perform SNL sketch as Bill Cosby

Actor and comedian said he ‘didn’t want to kick a man when he’s down’ in sketch skewering Cosby, who is accused of sexual assault

Comment: Eddie Murphy’s SNL snub was more than a favour to Bill Cosby

Eddie Murphy turned down a sketch lampooning Bill Cosby in Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary special, because he “will not kick a man when he is down”.

The revelation came from Norm Macdonald, an SNL regular in the 1990s who was helping to coordinate the all-star show which featured Murphy alongside Tom Hanks, Paul McCartney and Miley Cyrus among many others. He wrote a series of tweets outlining the creation of the sketch, and the subsequent overtures to Murphy.

The sketch centred around Murphy, dressed in one of Cosby’s signature multicoloured sweaters, mixing a drink. Cosby, once a beloved figure in US comedy and one of the first truly mainstream black TV stars, stands accused of drugging a series of women with spiked drinks, before sexually assaulting them.

Macdonald says that film producer Brett Ratner was called on to suggest the sketch to Murphy, who was “uncomfortable”, though wondered if it would be acceptable to perform it “since he’s doing pre-allegation Cosby”. On the night of the show, Macdonald tried further to convince him, but failed.

He knew the laughs would bring the house down. Eddie Murphy knows what will work on SNL better than any one.

— Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) February 19, 2015

Eddie decides the laughs are not worth it. He will not kick a man when he is down.

— Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) February 19, 2015

“Eddie Murphy, I realize, is not like the rest of us. Eddie does not need the laughs,” Macdonald continued. “Eddie Murphy is the coolest, a rockstar even in a room with actual rockstars.” In the end, the sketch was performed by current SNL cast member Kenan Thompson.

Other comedians have not shied from discussing or even joking about the Cosby allegations. They first re-emerged thanks to standup comedian Hannibal Burress, who said in a set: “Bill Cosby has the fuckin’ smuggest old black man public persona that I hate. He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the 80s! I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom!’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches.”

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler addressed the scandal while presenting the Golden Globes – in an Into The Woods-related gag, Poehler said “Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby,” and the pair did impressions of him talking about drugging women.

Chris Rock, who also appeared on SNL40, was more muted: “I grew up on Cosby. I love Cosby, and I just hope it’s not true. It’s a weird year for comedy. We lost Robin, we lost Joan, and we kind of lost Cosby,” he told New York magazine. Jerry Seinfeld meanwhile said: “I don’t know what to make of it, but it’s just upsetting.”


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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