A funny thing happened during Eddie Murphy’s speech after accepting the Mark Twain Prize for comedy at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts over the weekend: he made jokes about Bill Cosby.
The lighthearted jabs at Cosby came as a surprise to many after Murphy’s recent interview with the Washington Post in which he spoke on why he refused to play Cosby in a sketch during Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary celebration earlier this year, while women continued to step forward with their allegations of sexual misconduct and rape against Cosby.
“I totally understood,” Murphy told the Post. “It was the biggest thing in the news at the time. I can see why they thought it would be funny, and the sketch that Norm [Macdonald] wrote was hysterical. I was like, ‘Hey, I’m coming back to ‘SNL’ for the anniversary, I’m not turning my moment on the show into this other thing.’”
Maybe it was because some time has passed and the situation is no longer front page news. Or maybe because he was in a room full of comedic peers such as Arsenio Hall, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and others. No matter the case, Murphy proceeded to poke fun at one of his professed comedy “heroes” making a joke that “you’ve messed up when they want you to give your trophy back.”
“Bill has one of these. Did you all make him give it back?” he asked before going into an impersonation of Cosby refusing to give back his award. “I would like to talk to some of the people who feel like I should give back my motherf—-in’ trophies. You may have heard recently that I allegedly put the pill in the people’s stomach … If I ever see or meet this Hannibal Buress in person I am going to try and kill this man!”
The comedy prize honors those who influence society in the tradition of Samuel Clemens, the writer and satirist known as Mark Twain. Past recipients include Carol Burnett, Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno, Richard Pryor, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg and Will Ferrell.
Eddie Murphy: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize ceremony airs Nov. 23 at 9/8c on PBS.