Eddie Murphy, one of the all-time great “Saturday Night Live” performers, will return to Studio 8H this season as the “SNL” host after a long estrangement from the show that made him famous.
In a rare long-range announcement about “SNL,” NBC said Monday the 1980-84 cast member will take the stage on Dec. 21 in the high-profile pre-Christmas episode.
Hosting before that will be Woody Harrelson on the Sept. 28 season premiere (with musical guest Billie Eilish), “Fleabag” star Phoebe Waller-Bridge on Oct. 5 (with musical guest and onetime “SNL” host Taylor Swift) and “Stranger Things” star David Harbour (with Camila Cabello) on Oct. 12.
The December show will be Murphy’s third time hosting, including a 1982 stint when he was the only person to host while still in the “SNL” cast. Then a brash, red-hot rising star, he filled in when his “48 Hours” co-star Nick Nolte fell ill at the last minute.
Murphy was an electrifying presence in his four years on “SNL,” at a time when the show was struggling to survive the absence of creator Lorne Michaels. His characters including the marble-mouthed Buckwheat and the street-smart Mr. Robinson and his impersonations of Bill Cosby, Stevie Wonder and James Brown turned “SNL” back into a must-see.
After leaving and hosting a second time in 1984, he began distancing himself from “SNL,” an estrangement fueled by a 1995 incident when David Spade, then in the cast, joked on air about Murphy’s sputtering film career and labeled him “a falling star.”
He spent more than three decades away until making a disappointing return on a prime-time 40th anniversary special in 2015, delivering a bland statement of appreciation and then getting confused about a commercial cutaway. He reportedly refused a request that he revive his Cosby imitation in the thick of Cosby’s sexual assault scandal.