Eddie Murphy brought back one of his most beloved characters on Saturday Night Live this weekend: his angry impersonation of Gumby. The comedian hosted SNL's midseason finale with plenty of throwback characters, and Gumby was one of the most recognizable. Judging by the audience response, it went over well.
Murphy graced the SNL stage this weekend for the first time in 35 years. He took part in sketches both old and new, showing he has not lost his edge for the fast-paced style of the show. However, with characters like Gumby, he leaned on his legacy as well, using the power of his experience to fuel the show.
The results were well-received as responses to the show trickled in. Live viewers rejoiced in seeing Gumby — many even said they tuned in with the specific hope that he would show up. In the morning, as early birds caught up on the program, many felt the same.
Of course, there were some who thought Murphy did a disservice to his catalog by rehashing it decades later. Murphy was on SNL to promote his newly revitalized film work, which is already going well. He starred in the Netflix original film Dolemite is My Name, which came out in October, and now he has three more movies on his to-do list. All three are nostalgia-driven sequels — Coming 2 America, Triplets and Beverly Hills Cop 4.
With this in mind, it makes sense that Murphy's night on SNL would include so many familiar faces. Here is what fans are saying about Gumby.
If you didn’t see Eddie Murphy’s Gumby during Weekend Update last night don’t cheat yourself! I sat there laughing out loud through the whole bit, don’t know if I’ve ever laughed that hard at a TV show. 👏👏👏— Hub Arkush (@Hub_Arkush) December 22, 2019
For many people, seeing Murphy get back into this character after all these years was the highlight of the whole show. Some tweeted that they had not laughed this hard at SNL in a long time — perhaps since Murphy left, for all they knew. Seeing his version of Gumby aged up and over the world was a delight.
The fact that "Weekend Update" hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che could not contain their laughter actually made the segment even better for many viewers. They tweeted that they lost it when the hosts did, revelling in the shared nostalgia.
"Gumby brought everyone right out of character," one person tweeted with laughing emojis. "Eddie the king."
Proving this point, Jost ended the segment by saying: "I never thought I'd have to follow Gumby."
“I’m Gumby, DAMMIT!”
Thank you, Eddie, that was terrific. pic.twitter.com/EMUBOUMWXC— Gary "Not Impeached” McLean (@garydmclean) December 22, 2019
While many people were hoping for Gumby from the start, others were not expecting him, and the sketch sent them into a tailspin of nostalgia. Before long, clips of Murphy's original Gumby sketches from the 1980s were circulating, and viewers were remembering how groundbreaking the character was at the time.
He did the old classics: Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, Gumby, Buckwheat & Velvet Jones - and invented a couple new ones too: Dinner Table Dad, Crazy Elf, and all the performers fed off his energy. Big up to Lizzo too.December 22, 2019
Critics and fans did not focus on the performance particulars for sketches like Gumby on Saturday night, but instead on the "energy" that Murphy brought with him to the stage. They noted the power of his legacy, and how it seemed to fuel the other cast members and the broadcast as a whole. Even Lizzo seemed to get a boost from his presence, they thought.
Naturally, there were critics out there, as no one can please everyone. Some decried this use of Gumby as "lazy" and "boring," as he did not do anything "new." These people were shouted down in most cases, as SNL fans — especially long-time aficionados — just wanted to enjoy this for what it was.
Jost and Che
I also loved when Eddie called Colin, Headshot!!!— Berton Ridley (@berton1020) December 22, 2019
As Gumby, Murphy pulled no punches in insulting and criticizing Jost and Che. For many fans, that was the best part, as it allowed Gumby to be completely unfiltered without hurting any innocent bystanders. Che and Jost seemed to get a kick out of it as well.
"Jost & Che were visibly soaking it all in. Just brilliant," someone tweeted.
Jost and Che are not universally popular with SNL viewers these days, as both head writers and "Weekend Update" hosts. Mocking them was a smart choice for everyone involved.
Finally, all the nostalgia had many people thinking back on SNL history, trivia and lasting cultural impact. For example, classic movie blogger Peter Avellino noted that this was not the first time Murphy's Gumby and Larry David had appeared in the same show, harkening back to an episode from the early 1980s.
SNL is off for the holidays after this, but it will return in the New Year. Murphy's next movie, Coming 2 America, is slated for released on Dec. 18, 2020.