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Eddie Murphy returned to SNL with Gumby, Buckwheat and Mister Robinson’s gentrified neighborhood

Former cast member Eddie Murphy put a 2019 spin on acts like Buckwheat, Mr. Robinson, Gumby and more when he hosted "Saturday Night Live" on Dec. 21. (Video: The Washington Post)

The audience chanted his name as Eddie Murphy walked onto the “Saturday Night Live" center stage. Then the comedian told jokes from Studio 8H, his first time doing so in 35 years.

As he hinted throughout the week, Murphy brought several of his classic characters back with him as he made his long-waited return to the NBC sketch show.

The comedian, who was just 19 years old when he joined the SNL cast, has been credited with helping save the show during a time of crisis. But he kept his distance for decades after, and when he did finally return for the 40th anniversary episode in 2015, he didn’t tell a single joke.

Hence why so many comedy fans and SNL cast members spent months looking forward to Saturday’s Christmas episode. Here’s what happened when Murphy finally came home to SNL, from Gumby’s grievances to Murphy accidentally cursing on air:

Opening monologue

Murphy has been preparing for a return to performing stand-up, and his monologue jokes gave us a hint about what that might look like. “This is the last episode of 2019, but if you’re black, this is the first episode since I left in 1984,” Murphy said at the top of the show.

Although he refused to tell a Bill Cosby joke during the 40th anniversary episode, Murphy didn’t hold back this week. Talking about his 10 children, Murphy said “if you had told me 30 years ago that I would be this boring stay-at-home house dad and Bill Cosby would be in jail, even I would have took that bet.” Murphy impersonated Cosby and declared, “Who’s America dad now?!”

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Then the stage turned into a Mount Rushmore of comedic talent, with Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle all joining Murphy. Chappelle referred to it as “half of Netflix’s budget, right here onstage.”

“Not me,” added Morgan. “I made all my millions on the road.”

“You mean touring?” asked Murphy.

“No, I got hit by a truck," Morgan responded, to Murphy’s laughs.

Each comic asked Murphy about the sketch ideas they sent him and told the legendary comedian about his influence. “You know I followed your blueprint for my entire career,” Chappelle said. “Yeah yeah, I became the biggest star in television, and then I quit.”

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Mister Robinson’s gentrified neighborhood

In the 1980s, Mister Robinson was evading slumlords and running neighborhood scams. In 2019, he’s evading his wealthy neighbors and his neighborhood has been gentrified.

“It’s like a magic trick,” he explained as he entered his old apartment, which looked just as it did in the original sketches. “White people pay a lot of money, then poof! All the black people are gone.”

“But where do they go, boys and girls?” Mister Robinson asked. “Back to where they come from, of course! Atlanta."

And the word of the day, if you were wondering, is “squatter’s rights" which is “like finders keepers, but for other people’s houses."

Buckwheat on "Masked Singer"

How to bring back Buckwheat, a character so annoyingly popular to Murphy in the 1980s that he actually killed him off? A “Masked Singer” parody, of course.

Murphy’s original Buckwheat was inspired by the “Our Gang”/“Little Rascals” character, and repeatedly uttered the catchphrase “Otay!” and, with his affect, sang his version of songs like “Three Times a Lady” (“Fee Tines a Mady”).

In 2019, SNL writers put Buckwheat in a corn costume and had him sing “I Chot Da Charrif” (“I Shot The Sheriff”), “Aneese Nameena” (“Feliz Navidad”) and “Tinga Nadies” (“Single Ladies”).

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Gumby on “Weekend Update”

Gumby was a claymation children’s character from the 1950s and 1960s, but Murphy imagined that behind-the-scenes, Gumby was a cranky, cigar-smoking, showbiz tyrant (The sendup led to a Gumby revival in the 1980s and 1990s).

On Saturday, Murphy’s Gumby came to “Weekend Update” to insult hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che and complain that he didn’t appear on the episode sooner. “You know why you two sit behind this desk? Because your jokes don’t have legs,” Gumby said. “I pass kidney stones with more personality than the two of you.”

The segment ended but after Che bid farewell to Gumby, Murphy seemed to extend his time at the desk beyond the written lines. Off-camera, Murphy declared in character, “I’m staying here. Don’t tap me.. I’m staying! The people want to see me!”

Then to laughter, Murphy’s grizzled green character finally exited.

Velvet Jones on “Black Jeopardy”

SNL tried to update Velvet Jones who, in the 1980s, was a cross between a telemarketer, huckster and pimp (one of the most popular sketches back then was a how-to guide for women to make $1,500 a week via means we can’t go into detail here).

The new version of Velvet Jones was surprisingly similar to that one from three decades ago. Appearing on the recurring “Black Jeopardy” sketch, Jones kept trying to hawk his how-to guides while the game show host Darnell Hayes (Kenan Thompson) gently chastised him for calling women by a degrading term.

Holiday baking championship

Murphy held his own in presenting his possessed demon cake (it had human teeth after all) during this recurring sketch about bakers hoping to create elaborate cakes but utterly failing.

The Sonic the Hedgehog cake Murphy’s character had baked was so demonic that it caught fire at some point. “I think it’s trying to kill itself," Murphy said. Then the cake spoke gibberish. “That’s some evil backwards devil’s talk. I believe I opened up a portal and I am so bad at baking.”

Just as the sketch ended, Murphy said a profanity on live TV and immediately covered his mouth. He’s not the first guest to make that on-air mistake.

“Home for the Holidays” digital short

Maya Rudolph joined Murphy in this sketch that shows a heartfelt Christmas dinner speech delivered by the father to a family gathered around the table — and the reality of all their fighting.

The discord jumps between arguing over the remote, the grandfather not locking the bathroom door and Rudolph’s character losing it over all the food she’s forced to make. In one scene, Ego Nwodim’s daughter character argues with her parents about her fiance.

“Why?! Why can’t I marry him?!” she said. “Because he’s white?”

“Yes!” Murphy’s father yelled back.

North Pole News Report

This zany sketch showcases Murphy’s explosive performative chops, strong as ever, as he yells about a tragedy in the North Pole at Santa’s Workshop.

Murphy, as an elf, kept insisting to a TV reporter that polar bears have attacked elves, and the electrified fence supposedly keeping the bears out was faulty.

“These bears are out there and they’re hungry because of global warming,” Murphy’s hysterical elf yelled. “They smell that fresh elf meat and went crazy!”

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