In the sketch, Murphy entered Mister Robinson’s neglected tenement, then greeted the boys and girls watching at home as he slipped into his signature cardigan and sneakers. In 2019, though, Mister Robinson’s neighborhood has now been gentrified, which he described as “like a magic trick: White people pay a lot of money, and then poof! All the black people are gone!”
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Murphy’s character then had an awkward conversation with two white neighbors, played by Mikey Day and Heidi Gardner, who insinuated that he’d kept a massive Samsung television that was mistakenly delivered to his apartment instead of theirs.
They apologized for the uncomfortable query, assuring Mister Robinson that they were asking everyone in the building about their TV… but as the sketch later revealed, Mister Robinson did know something about where their TV ended up.
The first “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood” sketch aired on Feb. 21, 1981. It became a recurring skit during Murphy’s SNL tenure, with the character popping up another seven times before he left the show in 1984. Watch one of his earliest appearances below:
Murphy was an SNL cast member from 1980 to 1984. He was first brought on as a featured player for Season 6, then promoted to repertory status ahead of Season 7. He was just 19 years old when he got his start. At the time, that made him the youngest hire in SNL history.
During his four-season stint, Murphy popularized some of SNL‘s most beloved characters, including (but not limited to) Buckwheat, Gumby and, of course, Mister Robinson. To this day, he is the only cast member to have hosted the show while he was still a regular (after his 48 Hrs. costar Nick Nolte called out sick in the fall of 1982). He last presided over the program on Dec. 15, 1984, but returned to Studio 8H as recently as 2015 (for a brief appearance during the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special).
Watch video of the new Mister Robinson sketch above, then grade Murphy’s SNL homecoming:
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