UPDATE: In a statement to NBC News, Bill Cosby said he was pleased Eddie Murphy turned down a chance to impersonate him during Sunday's "SNL 40" anniversary special. "I am very appreciative of Eddie and I applaud his actions," Cosby said through a spokesperson.
EARLIER: Eddie Murphy's first appearance on "Saturday Night Live" in 30 years was awkward and stilted, but according to Norm Macdonald, it could have been a whole lot different. Over the course of several tweets posted on Wednesday, Macdonald explained that there was, at one point, the idea to include Murphy in the "SNL 40" version of "Celebrity Jeopardy" as Bill Cosby.
As Macdonald wrote, he was disappointed "Celebrity Jeopardy" had become about celebrity impressions for the "SNL 40" special. But writer Steve Higgins thought having Murphy mimic Cosby would help tie it all together. Wrote Macdonald:
Higgins had the idea. A video daily double.
The category would be potent potables, a common one on Jeopardy, but one we somehow had never done.
And the idea was that it would be a bar set. And the idea was that Cosby would be mixing a drink in a video that was taped 6 months ago.
It was perfect. It was all Steve Higgins idea.
At the end of the sketch, Darrel would choose potent potables. Homebase would be dressed as a bar.
The iconic doors would open and on to home base would step Eddie Murphy. The audience would know what to do.
Why is Eddie wearing a multi-colored sweater?He steps behind the bar, begins mixing a drink. The audience covers the fact he has not spoken.
When he speaks, he is Cosby. Eddie Murphy doing a perfect Cosby impression. The audience does not let him finish. The sketch ends.
The show, for all intents, ends.
All the impressions are forgiven.
The first thing to do is cut down the number of contestant/impressions and the second is to contact Eddie and to convince him to do it.
So, the talks were underway. "Brett says Eddie doesn't feel comfortable", "Eddie says 'maybe it's ok since he's doing pre-allegation Cosby"
And on and on it went. I had not spoken to Eddie or @BrettRatner. I was dead sure Eddie would do it. Most others were not.
Macdonald relayed a bunch of other anecdotes about the week, including that Bill Murray almost didn't make the show because of a golf tournament, before finishing out the Murphy story:
I'm standing with my son, Lori Jo, and Chris Rock. We see Eddie from 100 yards away.
Rock says, "There he is. Like Ali in Zaire." Eddie, Bomaye.
It's my job to talk him in to doing Jeopardy.
We talk in his dressing room a good hour. When it's over, I'm convinced he'll do it.
He knew the laughs would bring the house down. Eddie Murphy knows what will work on SNL better than any one.
Eddie decides the laughs are not worth it. He will not kick a man when he is down.
Eddie Murphy, I realize, is not like the rest of us. Eddie does not need the laughs.
Eddie Murphy is the coolest, a rockstar even in a room with actual rockstars.
Without Murphy's involvement, the sketch wound up happening with Kenan Thompson in the role of Cosby.
Murphy and Cosby memorably crossed paths before. During the 1987 concert film "Raw," Murphy recalled how Cosby chastised him about using foul language in his stand-up routine.
For more "SNL 40" stories, head to Macdonald's Twitter account.
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