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Eddie Murphy reveals his first and only audition was for 'SNL'

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3 days ago Rasha Ali, USA TODAY
a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Eddie Murphy accepts his lifetime achievement award at the 25th annual Critics' Choice Awards, where Murphy's "Dolemite Is My Name" also won best comedy film. © CHRIS PIZZELLO/INVISION/AP Eddie Murphy accepts his lifetime achievement award at the 25th annual Critics' Choice Awards, where Murphy's "Dolemite Is My Name" also won best comedy film.

Most actors, regardless of accolades and star status, have had to audition at least a handful of times – except for Eddie Murphy.

The comedian said his first and only audition was for "Saturday Night Live" when he was 18 years old. 

In an interview with Vanity Fair published Tuesday, the "Dolemite is My Name" actor recalled his "SNL" audition, where he was tasked with making one guy in a room laugh. Given that Murphy had been doing stand-up comedy since he was 15, he figured it would be an easy feat. 

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"The first audition is literally a guy sitting in a room by himself, and he just says, 'Make me laugh,' " Murphy said. "Well, that would be daunting to most people, but because I had been doing stand-up I had 15 to 20 minutes of an act. I was used to going up late at night at the Comic Strip. When you’re a young comic you don’t get good spots, so you’re going up in front of five or six people anyway."

The 58-year-old comedian said he did impressions of Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Ali, Howie Cosell and Bill Cosby during his bit.

"He didn’t laugh at anything. I was just doing it, he was just sitting there watching me, and looking me up and down. After I did all my (expletive), he was like, 'Thank you,' " Murphy said.

The "Dr. Dolittle" star thought he tanked the audition and said he was surprised to get called back for consecutive auditions, eventually being given the chance to read with "SNL" cast members.

"It was two people in the room, and they said: 'Make us laugh.' I did the same thing – nobody laughed. Then it was three people in the room, and they said, 'Make us laugh,' and one guy kind of giggled a little bit," Murphy said.

When it came to for the big audition, the comedian seemingly nailed it.

"I read with (Joe) Piscopo – the sketch that I had seen Richard Pryor do when he hosted the show with Chevy Chase," Murphy said. "I had seen that sketch a bunch of times. So it was like, This is my audition? (Laughs.) I didn’t even need the paper! Did it. Crushed it. And got the show."

Murphy returned to host "SNL" in December for the sketch comedy show's 40th anniversary, 40 years after his audition. It was a full circle moment for the comedian that he said filled him with nostalgia.

"That’s what’s doing stand-up feels like to me as well. It’s making the circle complete. That’s what I feel like. Because I’m not doing 'SNL' or doing stand-up again, or doing (the sequel to) 'Coming to America' to get more famous, or to make some more money. I’m doing them because this is a nice little bookend," he said.

Murphy continued: "That was the first time I had been back there since I left. Just being in the room, and the big burst of nostalgia that I felt when I went in there, and seeing all these people, and seeing other actors that were on this show, and feeling like, Wow, I feel a kinship to these people. It’s like people that were in the same high school as you, you see?"

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