Eddie Murphy: no longer hosting the Oscars. (JESSICA RINALDI/REUTERS)

Eddie Murphy’s comeback is officially canceled. Or at least put on hold.

The man who was poised to reclaim his rightful place as cinema’s comedic master thanks to what was supposed to be a box office-topping performance in “Tower Heist” (it wasn’t) has, as previously reported on this Web site, stepped down as Oscar host in the wake of “Tower Heist” director Brett Ratner’s resignation as producer.

That’s right: if you want to hear Buckwhat jokes on Oscar night, you’re just going to have to tell them yourself

Is this surprising? Honestly, not really. Without Ratner — and what had sounded like a mounting team of writers willing to support the Murphy approach to Academy Award hosting — the guy formerly known as Axel Foley may have decided to bail now. That way, he could avoid the inevitabe disagreements with Bruce Vilanch over what constitutes quality comedy.

And frankly, the up side of the hype — providing a promotional boost to “Tower Heist” — may have fizzled a little after “Heist” opened last weekend below revenue expectations. Murphy’s movie landed at No. 2 at the box office, while “Puss in Boots” — a flick based on the cat from the “Shrek” franchise, the same franchise that had lined Murphy’s pockets until they they did a spin-off sans Donkey — was the top movie at the box office. I mean, there’s only so much injury a guy can take in one week.

Personally, I’m a little disappointed. I was looking forward to seeing how Murphy would handle the gig, and to counting the number of bleeped curse words uttered during the live telecast.

How do you feel about this development? Vote in the poll below.

Oh, and feel fre to vote in the second poll below, about who might be Murphy’s replacement, with the caveat that it’s missing one key name: Billy Crystal. When I asked him after last year’s Oscar night if he would be game to host again, he sounded intrigued, and continued to sound that way in the weeks that followed.

Don’t be surprised if the Academy’s next big announcement is that Billy is coming back.