In the first episode of SNL’s new web series Stories From the Show, Murphy details his time on the NBC series, including his rocky start. His first episode as a cast member aired Dec. 13, 1980, right after the original cast and series creator Lorne Michaels left. Murphy recalls the audience’s disdain for the changes: “It was hard at first for the simple fact that the show was so beloved,” he says. “So the audience was like, ‘F— all of y’all, and f— this show.’”
The comedian, who was just 19 at the time, says he wasn’t fazed because he was just “so happy” to be on television. After his first year on the show, Murphy says head writer Michael O’Donoghue “came in and fired everybody,” except for Murphy and Joe Piscopo. The reason he made the cut was simple, Murphy says: He ate fake dog food during a Weekend Update sketch.
“[O’Donoghue] came in and said, ‘And the only reason Murphy didn’t get fired was because he ate that dog food,’” Murphy recalls, adding that he told O’Donoghue it wasn’t dog food, it was hash. “He looked at me like ‘What the f—?’ But it was too late and I kept the show. But I was that close. If he had known that was hash, none of this would be happening.”
Murphy eventually left the show in 1984 to pursue his burgeoning film career. In December, Murphy notably returned to the SNL stage for the first time in 35 years as host, bringing back some of his most memorable characters to boot.
Watch the first episode of Stories From the Show above.