Sunday, December 22, 2019

Eddie Murphy On Saturday Night Live | Lefsetz Letter

“I’m Gumby, DAMMIT!”

What kind of crazy fucked-up world do we live in where SNL has its best show in decades?

One in which Eddie Murphy comes back to Rockefeller Center to exhibit his talent and blow the rest of the cast away.

Of course I wasn’t gonna watch this. I was convincing Felice to watch either “El Marginal” or “Gomorrah” on Netflix. But she said she had to see the opening of SNL first.


Rather than fire up the Roku downstairs, I decided to watch the opening. Which featured stars galore, and fell flat as it usually does, I didn’t laugh out loud once, and neither did Felice. Sure, the studio audience was howling, but they were just thrilled to be there.

But then Chris Rock showed up. And Chappelle.

Seems like a long time ago, but our comedy heroes have come back to roost. Watching Rock one remembered all his A-level specials, he was the new Carlin on HBO.

But Chappelle had even more stage presence, today he’s a bigger star than all of them, walking away from his TV show, going into hibernation and then coming back on Netflix and angering the same people who can’t seem to understand why Trump is President. What did that famous African-American seer once sing…DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS? I’m not gonna say I agree with everything Chappelle says, but he’s got a right to say it, and when people utter the politically incorrect, conversation flows, we get to figure it out for ourselves instead of being told how to think, or that we can’t think. Yup, what kind of crazy fucked-up world do we live in where you need trigger warnings, where colleges are so out of touch that the Republicans gain a talking point. I went to college, we protested, but we did not Facetime our mommies multiple times a day, going away to school meant you were an adult, you had to figure it out for yourself, you even had to do your own laundry!

But as the white nationalists rage, watching tonight’s program illustrated that it is black culture that rules the world, that is cool. Come on, Chappelle smoking a cigarette? And Lizzo! I hate that she sang to track, and the dancers in the first number were superfluous, but she evidenced talent and she was having so much FUN! I’m not saying it was dangerous, not Elvis Costello or Sinead O’Connor back in the day, then again, isn’t it illegal to be fat? I’m down with anybody questioning precepts. Isn’t that what rock and roll used to be, before it became about conformity and selling out to the man?

But in “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood”… Eddie inhabited the character without chewing the scenery, he took a formula and jetted it into the stratosphere!

And how about that holiday cake sketch? He was the only one who evidenced any star power.

Yup, stars. That’s what we’re interested in. And we know it when we see it, just like pornography.

So back in ’73, I went to see “Lemmings” at the Village Gate. And it took only one performance to be closed by John Belushi and Chevy Chase. Their performances were embedded in my brain. Such that when they appeared on SNL…not only was I ready, but they became instant stars. Yup, it was a smaller world, easier to make it, but since Eddie Murphy, no one’s become an overnight, instant star on SNL. Well, Tina Fey came close, but otherwise we were exposed to nobodies going nowhere or people on their way to making hackneyed movies, unlike “Animal House.”

And Will Ferrell… He was too safe, he was warm and cuddly, you could take him home to mom.

But Eddie Murphy?

The closing segment, the one with the reputation for being way out there, that usually sucks, with Eddie hogging the camera at the North Pole? Come on, that’s local news to a T! If I say anything more, I’m gonna appear racist, but Eddie nailed it.

And even though Velvet Jones is not a new character, Eddie blew away the rest of the cast on “Black Jeopardy.”

We’re looking for excellence. In the everybody can be a star world of the internet, we give credit to those who do not deserve it. We’re looking for transcendent performances, ones we can never forget, where someone fully-formed comes out and knocks us dead.

Come on, did you ever see Prince?

Some people just have it in them.

And some people had it and lost it.

And to tell you the truth, I thought Eddie Murphy was lost, that he jumped the shark, with too much money and…

But when he talked about being the American Dad Cosby is not, staying at home with his kids, joking about having to go back to work to feed his progeny…

It reminded me of Richard Pryor at the Comedy Store, not long after he burned himself up, when he took the stage and started telling Richard Pryor jokes. You know, like lighting a match and bouncing it up and down and asking the audience what it was…

I wanna be taken to the limit, I don’t want to settle.

And our whole world is about settling these days. Everybody has the right to become President, everybody has the right to do everything, and what most people are best at is self-promotion, other than the work.

But most of us are just the audience, admit it. And when we’re lying in bed, or on the couch, and someone comes along and lifts us up, takes us away from our humdrum lives, makes us feel it’s great to be alive…

We’re all eyes and ears.

And tonight that was Eddie Murphy.


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