Of course Eddie did the hits.
returned to Saturday Night Live for the first time since a hosting gig in 1984 (if you don’t count that really weird appearance during the SNL 40 special) last night, and ran through pretty much every character you’d hope to see him do. Gumby, Buckwheat, Velvet Jones: they all popped up. The first of the bunch, though, and the most welcome, was Mr. Robinson.
If you’re somehow not thoroughly middle-aged, maybe some context is needed here. “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood” was one of Eddie Murphy’s breakout sketches in the early ‘80s, a time when he was pretty much the only star SNL had. It was a parody of Mr. Rogers, obviously, with the joke being that Mr. Robinson was, um, living rough in a bad part of a New York outer borough.
Well, a lot has changed in the last 40 years. The Brooklyn of 1982 is not the Brooklyn of 2019. So the first “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood” sketch in decades hones right in on the gentrification that has overtaken almost all of New York. The ghetto that Mr. Robinson lives in is now home to million dollar apartments, and he’s simply learned how to adjust to his new surroundings. Indeed, he’s made them work for him.
Before cable, TV was a wasteland at 11:30 p.m. on Saturdays, which is one reason Saturday Night Live was able to establish itself as a cultural touchstone. If you’re nostalgic for those days, check out the sketch below. One thing Mr. Robinson always had going for him: he always knew when to cut and run, a skill in short supply among SNL writers and performers these days.