Eddie Murphy Explains Why He Refused to Mock Bill Cosby on SNL 40 (Video)

Earlier in the year, Saturday Night Live celebrated its milestone 40th anniversary on air with a multi-hour mega special. The episode featured performances by Kanye West, a who’s who list of celebrity appearances and the return of many of SNL‘s most successful alumni. For many, one of the most anticipated of those homecomings was that of Eddie Murphy, who had not been back to the show since his departure, 30 years prior. When Murphy finally hit the stage, he did not reprise any of his iconic characters. Instead, after a nearly 4-minute introduction from Chris Rock, Murphy spoke for less than a minute, simply thanking the audience for their warm reception and stating that he loved the show.

Murphy’s limited participation in the gala garnered nearly as much attention as any of the evening’s skits or performances, and it wasn’t until days later that the reason why his role was so minimal was revealed. As Entertainment Weekly reported, Norm Macdonald, who had spent several years as the anchor of SNL‘s Weekend Update in the mid-90s, tweeted that he had written a skit for Murphy that Eddie refused to do. The subject? Bill Cosby. Murphy was asked to participate in a sketch that would end by mocking Bill Cosby and the reported druggings at the heart of the firestorm of rape allegations he’s faced over the last year. Despite Murphy’s hilarious impersonations of Cosby in the past, and their somewhat contentious relationship early in Murphy’s career, Eddie declined and the role was filled by Kenan Thompson.

Now, for the first time since SNL 40, Murphy has addressed his appearance and why he refused to lampoon Cosby. In speaking with the Washington Post, Eddie acknowledged that he thought the skit Macdonald wrote was funny, but he could not make light of Cosby’s circumstances. ““It’s horrible,” Murphy said of the allegations Cosby is facing. “There’s nothing funny about it.” Murphy, who is no stranger to tabloid controversies himself over the years, also went on to say “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.’”

In further explaining Eddie’s rationale, perhaps Macdonald said it best in February during the middle of the furor over Murphy’s limited role on SNL 40:

“Eddie Murphy knows what will work on SNL better than any one. Eddie decides the laughs are not worth it. He will not kick a man when he is down. Eddie Murphy, I realize, is not like the rest of us. Eddie does not need the laughs. Eddie Murphy is the coolest, a rockstar even in a room with actual rockstars.”

Do you think Eddie Murphy did the right thing by turning down the Cosby skit?

Related: Watch a 21-Year Old Eddie Murphy Talk About His Experiences on SNL (Video)