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Eddie Murphy Gets a Hero's Welcome Hosting Saturday Night Live

"Who is America's dad now?"

Amanda Bell

Eddie Murphy was back in the house -- make that Studio 8H -- for the first time in 35 years on the latest edition of Saturday Night Live. Not only did he seem to have a blast bringing back some old characters and engaging in a few new skits, but he also got to relish his status as a living legend of the show right from the start.

"This is the last episode of 2019, but if you're black, this is the first episode since I left back in 1984," he said to kick things off in his opening monologue. Murphy continued, "So much has changed. I actually just had a baby just about a year ago. I actually have 10 kids now, 11 if you count Kevin Hart ... My kids are actually pretty much my whole life now. But 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 woulda took that bet. Who is America's dad now?"

Murphy was later joined on the stage by Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, and Kenan Thompson -- or, as Chappelle put it, "half of Netflix's budget" -- to celebrate their collective star power on the stage, even coordinating their suit game for effect.

Rock, who'd joined SNL a few years after Murphy's departure, seized the opportunity to pay him the ultimate compliment by remembering, "When I got hired, Lorne [Michaels] told me, 'You're going to be the next Eddie Murphy. And then a year later, he said, 'No, you're not.'"

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Speaking of celebrity status, Murphy also helped to lampoon The Masked Singer's finale by reprising his vintage role as Buckwheat, who was disguised as Corn on the Cob for the competition and delivered a rousing rendition of "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You."

Once unmasked, Buckwheat offered up a trio of other melodies, and his curious vocals impressed the judges -- Bowen Yang's Ken Jeong even diagnosed him as "100% juicy." However, Buckwheat proclaimed that he was "o-tay" doing his own thing far away from the spotlight.

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Another throwback character who was not as happy disappearing into the oblivion of Murphy's absence from the show was Gumby, who crashed "Weekend Update" to remind audiences of his impact on Murphy's career at SNL.

"I am Gumby!" he said upon arrival. When asked by Michael Che what he was doing there, he snapped, "What am I doing here? The question, Michael Che, is how the hell are you going to put on a show and not have me in the show until now. I should have been in every damn sketch from the top. I am the one that made Eddie Murphy a star."

"Let me tell you something. I saved this show from the gutter ... this is the thanks I get for saving this show. Shame on you Lorne Michaels. Shame on you NBC. Shame on you," he continued before turning his ire to Che and Colin Jost.

"You know why you two are behind this desk?" he demanded. "Because your jokes don't have legs, you schmucks. I've passed kidney stones with more personality than the two of you ... face it, kid, the both of you together couldn't velcro my sneakers."

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Murphy also returned to "Mister Robinson's Neighborhood," with a few key updates to the theme song that reveal some gentrification afoot in the title abode: "I've been gone for a bit, but now I'm all right/ My neighbors was all black, but now they white/ The check cashing place turned in a bank, elevator works and the stairs they don't stink/ The white people came, they changed everything, but I am still your neighbor."

Other highlights of the episode include a "Holiday Baking Championship" challenge segment that rapidly deteriorated into an episode of Nailed It!, the "North Pole News Report" about how climate change forced polar bears to hunt for food inside an elf's workshop, a "Black Jeopardy" segment featuring Murphy's new entrepreneurial contestant Velvet Jones, and the obligatory political cold open take on the latest DNC debate.

Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:30/10:30c on NBC.

(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)

​Eddie Murphy, Saturday Night Live

Eddie Murphy, Saturday Night Live