If this is right, then Eddie Murphy wins Gentleman Comedian of the Year. During the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live (SNL), Murphy begged off doing a bit critical of Bill Cosby. The “why” would be interesting to know, but there are several possibilities. For one, basic comedic civility. Usually all is fodder for the merciless exercise of the craft in comedy; laughs being gratifying and validating and a living. But why pull comedic punches in an unequal fight?
Maybe because Cosby is embattled: there’s nothing funny there. Another perhaps more important thing: there’s the alleged rape victims. There’s something crass (perhaps, even morally dubious) in making light of a horrifying situation. Then there’s the fact that Cosby and Murphy, however unlike in comedic style, are black pioneers in their profession (as one Facebook friend eloquently noted). Both were cash cows for NBC in the 1980s. Cosby with his “The Cosby Show” and Murphy with skits on SNL that saved it from permanent extinction. But that’s all speculation. We don’t need to know exactly why Murphy didn’t do Cosby because we have the act itself, his not doing Cosby when it would have been so easy. We now know for certain that Eddie Murphy, despite a tendency to be Raw, is really more like Norbit.