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Bill Cosby Response to Eddie Murphy’s Saturday Night Live Joke About the Disgraced Comedian
Bill Cosby is an alleged serial rapist, but he’s also a hypocrite. Obviously, sexual assault is the far more serious offense, but it still chafes that a man so fond of scolding other black people, of telling us to pull up our pants and adhere to the “respectable” upper middle class mores he projected, is actually a sex offender. Now, Cosby’s an imprisoned convicted rapist—but he’s still taking the opportunity, via his publicist, to scold other black people.
This time, the black person in question is famed comedian Eddie Murphy, who hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend. He netted the show its biggest ratings in years and delighted veteran fans by bringing back characters from his early-‘80s run on the show. But one joke seems to have rubbed Cosby the wrong way. During Murphy’s opening monologue, the father-of-ten cracked that, “If you told me 30 years ago that I’d be this boring stay-at-home house dad and Bill Cosby would be in jail, even I wouldn’t have took that bet,” before aping Cosby’s voice and asking, “Who’s America’s Dad now?”
On Sunday, Cosby’s publicist Andrew Wyatt responded to the joke in a post on the jailed comedian’s Instagram page. In the rambling, deeply offensive message, Wyatt claimed that because Cosby broke barriers for black entertainers, people like Murphy should now be banned from making jokes about him. And he also implied that Murphy’s performances had echoes of “Stepin Fetchit plus cooning”:
Mr. Cosby became the first Black to win an Emmy for his role in I Spy and Mr. Cosby broke color barriers in the Entertainment Industry, so that Blacks like Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappell, Kevin Hart and et al., could have an opportunity to showcase their talents for many generations to come. It is sad that Mr. Murphy would take this glorious moment of returning to SNL and make disparaging remarks against Mr. Cosby. One would think that Mr. Murphy was given his freedom to leave the plantation, so that he could make his own decisions; but he decided to sell himself back to being a Hollywood Slave. Stepin Fetchit plus cooning equals the destruction of Black Men in Hollywood. Remember, Mr. Murphy, that Bill Cosby became legendary because he used comedy to humanize all races, religions and genders; but your attacking Mr. Cosby helps you embark on just becoming click bait. Hopefully, you will be amenable to having a meeting of the minds conversation, in order to discuss how we can use our collective platforms to enhance Black people rather than bringing all of us down together.
In the years between his Cosby Show-heyday and eventual downfall, Cosby became known for his brand of black conservatism, which centered around disparaging poor black people and pretty much ignoring the effects of racism and classism. In his now infamous “pound cake” speech, in which he upbraided black people for getting shot by police supposedly after stealing pound cake, he chastised those who “wore their pants down around the crack,” and said that people with names like “Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap” are “all in jail.” The pound cake speech instantly sparked controversy—and took on a new legacy once it was revealed that Cosby, who held himself as a kind of moral authority in the black community, was actually anything but. He may be in a Pennsylvania state prison, but Wyatt’s message suggests that the Cosby camp hasn’t lost its taste for policing black people.
Cosby and Murphy have a long history: While performing in 1986, Murphy noted that Cosby called him up and “chastised [him] on the phone for being too dirty onstage.”
“He wasn’t nice,” Murphy said of Cosby during an appearance on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee this year. “He wasn’t doing that with everybody, he was doing that with me specifically. He was shitty with me.”
Interestingly, despite this history of tension, when Eddie Murphy last stopped by Studio 8H in 2015 and SNL writers asked him to play Cosby in a sketch, Murphy shot them down. He later told the Washington Post that there was “nothing funny” about the assault allegations against the elder comedian.
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.