I didn't pay much attention to SNL's 40th year celebration until I saw a discussion on Facebook about Eddie Murphy's brief appearance. I learned that to many observers he had seemed nervous, awkward, downright afraid. Some people thought the cameras had been cut off early to spare him from further embarrassing himself.
After watching both edited and unedited versions of the video, I say: bullshit.
Chris Rock's introduction was 100% excellent. It was heartfelt, it was funny, it was beautifully written, it was delivered with perfect energy and timing, and it honored Eddie without getting sentimental.
When Eddie came out and spoke he didn't seem afraid to me at all. He seemed mature, dignified, and respectful. Did he have it in him to electrify us like he used to? Did he have the desire? Maybe, maybe not. It doesn't matter. He wasn't there to perform for us but to speak to us as himself, which in a way I value even more. Anyone who thought Chris Rock was the intro to The Eddie Murphy Show had it wrong. Chris Rock was the show. He presented Eddie with a verbal lifetime achievement award, and Eddie accepted it graciously.
As for being cut off early — it seems to me that in the unedited version Eddie was cut off late. He says "Let's have some more show," gets the audience applauding by clapping his own hands, and turns to direct our attention to the stage as if to bring on the next thing. It seems clear to me the camera was supposed to cut away during the applause. Of course I don't know for sure, but it looks a lot like the editing covered up the director's failure to cut away on cue rather than any fault of Eddie's.
I don't get why so many people are treating Eddie like a sick, broken man. If he is, I don't see it. And I reject the notion that Eddie Murphy needs to get on some road to artistic salvation that happens to consist of making us all happy like he used to. He doesn't owe us his old laugh, he doesn't owe us a few gags and impressions, he doesn't owe us thrills of any kind.
Eddie Murphy was huge to me growing up. I'm glad stratospheric fame didn't do to him what it did to Michael Jackson and Elvis. I attribute that to discipline and impulse control, maybe combined with a lack of certain self-destructive impulses in the first place. Eddie Murphy has taken care of his body, his mind, his finances, and as far as I know his family. (I consider it a good sign that I don't know.) If he chooses to give us more of himself I'll be delighted. Until then, I respect him for living life on his own terms, and I refuse to join the pity party.