Murphy will host Saturday Night Live on Dec. 21, marking his first turn as host in 35 years. Famously, despite being one of the show’s most widely beloved cast members and one of its most successful alumni, Murphy has largely avoided SNL since 1984, when he departed the show to pursue a film career.
Murphy made his SNL debut in 1980 at the age of 19 and rapidly ascended to stardom. He is often credited with keeping the show alive during the infamous Lorne Michaels-less years, making his mark with such characters as The Little Rascals‘ Buckwheat, the Mr. Rogers spoof Mr. Robinson, and a hardened version of Gumby.
In 1982, Murphy stepped in to host the show when scheduled host (and Murphy’s 48 Hrs. costar) Nick Nolte fell ill, and remains the only person to host SNL while still a cast member. He departed the show two episodes from the end of the season in 1984, returning to host in December of that year. He has not returned to the show or participated in any retrospectives since, aside from a very brief appearance on SNL‘s 40th anniversary special in 2015.
In a 2011 Rolling Stone interview, Murphy commented on his relationship with SNL, saying he “felt sh—ty” about jokes made at the expense of his career. (In a 1995 sketch, in the midst of a career slump for Murphy, David Spade showed a picture of the actor and said, “Look, children, a falling star!”)
“What really irritated me about it at the time was that it was a career shot,” Murphy said in the interview. “It was like, ‘Hey, come on, man, it’s one thing for you guys to do a joke about some movie of mine, but my career? I’m one of you guys. How many people have come off this show whose careers really are f—ed up, and you guys are sh—ting on me?'”
SNL returns for its 45th season on Sept. 28 with Woody Harrelson hosting. Other hosts announced so far include Phoebe Waller-Bridge, David Harbour, and Kristen Stewart (Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, and Camila Cabello are the musical guests on the first three episodes). Murphy, meanwhile, will next be seen in the upcoming biopic Dolemite Is My Name.