40 Years of SNL: Eddie Murphy

For our “Icon Issue” we picked our 5 favorite cast members from the first 40 Years of SNL. Included in that list is of course Eddie Murphy. To read the entire list, and see all of Sean Dockery’s art, pick up our Icon Issue today! 

Saturday Night Live - Season 7

Eddie Murphy is quite possibly the biggest star to ever come out of Saturday Night Live. He was a huge reason why SNL was able to stay relevant during the decade of the 80s.

Eddie Murphy joined the Saturday Night Live cast in 1980 when he was only 19 years old. He stayed on the program until 1984. By 1980 Live no longer had fan favorites like John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd or Bill Murray as cast members. There was widespread doubt about SNL’s future and if it could maintain its popularity. The early SNL cast was so beloved that it was hard to imagine them being replaced. Eddie Murphy was able to take full advantage of the show’s lack of star power and become a dominant personality on the sketch comedy. Murphy may have been young and relatively inexperienced when he joined the cast, but those perceived weaknesses never seemed to be an issue in terms of his work on the sketch comedy.

The young comic gained such a large following while on Saturday Night Live that in many ways he was becoming bigger than the show. He was able to star in a few hit films while being a part of SNL and that allowed him to be viewed as more than just a Live cast member. Murphy was so huge that he was the first SNL cast member to host the show—while still a member of the cast. Some observers felt that maybe Murphy’s ego around this time had gotten too large for his own good. When he served as host as a member of the cast, he opened it by saying, “Live from New York, It’s the Eddie Murphy Show!”

Much of Murphy’s lure was tied to just how self-confident he was when doing one of his pitch perfect impersonations or while bringing a character to life. He shined in sketches like “Velvet Jones School of Technology” and “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood.” His characters, like Gumby, were done with bravado and hilarious commitment. When you consider how young Murphy was while on SNL—it’s hard to imagine him being so astonishingly successful without his high level of confidence.

Saturday Night Live has had an unbelievable roster of talent during its first 40 years on the air—and Eddie Murphy might just be the biggest talent of them all.


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