Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby both defined the 1980s, but even though Cosby was one of Murphy’s earliest comedy influences, the two have always had a weird, tumultuous relationship. It was a big story earlier this year when Murphy refused to dust off his Cosby impression during Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary special, supposedly not wanting to attack somebody who was already at their lowest point, but in the ‘80’s Murphy regularly mocked Cosby’s family-friendly image on SNL. There’s an extended riff in 1987’s Eddie Murphy Raw where Murphy mocks Cosby for complaining about Murphy’s love of profanity; in the bit Murphy reenacts the reaction of his other major mentor, Richard Pryor, who gets pissed at Cosby and calls him a “Jell-O Puddin’ eatin’ motherfucka.” If Pryor and Cosby were at opposite ends of the spectrum of black stand-up, Murphy was far closer to Pryor, even if he had respect for Cosby.
Murphy hadn’t done stand-up in decades when he accepted the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor last night. Founded in 1998, the annual award is the biggest prize given to comedians in America, and Murphy’s only the third black person to win it, after Pryor and Cosby. And when he came on stage to accept his award, Murphy decided to riff a bit on one of his mentors, and busted out that Cosby impersonation for the first time in who knows how long. It’s a short clip, with Murphy’s speech starting around the 2:20 mark, but if you’ve missed one of the most iconic and powerful voices in stand-up, and want to see what Murphy thinks of Cosby today, it’s an exciting minute of comedy.