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Eddie Murphy Brings Classic Characters Back To 'SNL'

He's Gumby, damn it!
Saturday Night Live via YouTube
Screenshot by NPR
He's Gumby, damn it!

Eddie Murphy came to Saturday Night Live at just 19 years old and became one of the show's breakout stars in the early 1980s. While former cast members of his fame routinely come back to host, aside from one brief appearance in 2015, he's been conspicuously absent from NBC's Studio 8H since then.

That changed Saturday, with Murphy returning to host the show for the first time in 35 years. He brought back favorites like Mister Robinson, Buckwheat, Gumby and Velvet Jones.

But first, the show's cold open — with guests galore — took on this past week's Democratic primary debate.

"Just like The Bachelor, the further we go, the less diverse it gets."

During the monologue, some big stars ("half of Netflix's budget, right here on stage") asked Murphy if he got their pitches for sketches.

"The Law & Order: UTI sketch?"

"Mister Robinson's Neighborhood" was the classic parody of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

How does Mister Robinson, last seen in the 1980s, afford to keep his apartment in a gentrifying neighborhood? "The word of the day: squatter's rights."

Buckwheat was back with more takes on songs. "Pawnin in Nub," "Dine, Teal, Dawibba" and get in the holiday spirit with "Aneese Nameena."

And don't you dare forget Gumby. "I'm Gumby, damn it!"

"I saved this damn show from the gutter!"

Velvet Jones isn't making commercials anymore. He's branched out into game shows. But he's still shilling books.

Oh, and someone named Lizzo was the musical guest. NPR readers really, really like Lizzo.

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James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.