Eddie Murphy finally did the Bill Cosby impression he wouldn’t do for the 40th anniversary of “Saturday Night Live,” threading the needle between comedy and tragedy gently as he accepted the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night in Washington.
“Bill has one of these,” Murphy said, indicating his Twain award. “Did y’all make Bill give his back? Because I know there was a big outcry from people, they was trying to get Bill to give his trophies back.
“You know you [messed] up when they want you to give your trophies back,” he said, earning a roar from the audience.
“He should do one show where he just come out and just talk crazy now,” Murphy said before switching into the 2009 Twain prize recipient’s persona. “‘I would like to talk toooo some of the people who feel .... that I should give back my ... trophies.” (Check it out above, starting around the 2:23 mark.)
The “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Shrek” star made headlines earlier this year when he declined to appear on the “SNL” anniversary show because they wanted him to portray the embattled funnyman in a “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch. Kenan Thompson wound up taking on the role.
Cosby released a statement at the time, saying, “I am very appreciative of Eddie and I applaud his actions.”
Murphy explained his “SNL” decision to the Washington Post in an interview that ran last week.
“I totally understood. It was the biggest thing in the news at the time. I can see why they thought it would be funny, and the sketch that Norm [Macdonald] wrote was hysterical,” the 54-year-old told the paper.
Even so, the four-season cast member of the late-night comedy show balked. “It’s horrible,” he said of the situation in which dozens of women have accused Cosby of sexual abuse. “There’s nothing funny about it. If you get up there and you crack jokes about him, you’re just hurting people. You’re hurting him. You’re hurting his accusers. I was like, ‘Hey, I’m coming back to ‘SNL’ for the anniversary, I’m not turning my moment on the show into this other thing.’”
On the red carpet before the event, “SNL” alum Tracy Morgan made it all about Murphy.
“He’s the reason I have a career.”
Previous winners of the Mark Twain prize, in reverse chonological order going back to the award’s 1998 inception, are Jay Leno, Carol Burnett, Ellen DeGeneres, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Cosby, George Carlin, Billy Crystal, Neil Simon, Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels, Lily Tomlin, Bob Newhart, Whoopi Goldberg, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters and Richard Pryor.