Saturday Night Live has spawned multiple comedy stars and influenced generations of comedic talents in the sketch comedy arena. One of those talents who was influenced by the late-night institution was film and TV actor Keegan-Michael Key. Like many young fans during the series’ early years, Key found a particular cast member to idolize. His idol was the then-rising star Eddie Murphy. Now, the Key & Peele star has unveiled which classic Eddie Murphy SNL bit encouraged him to pursue sketch comedy, and it's a classic.
The comedic actor hasn’t been shy about Murphy's influence on his career. The Coming 2 America star’s Saturday Night Live run opened Key up to sketch comedy. He recalled seeing the impact of Murphy on his father in his forthcoming book The History of Sketch Comedy: A Journey through the Art and Craft of Humor (via EW). Key said:
The first time I remember hearing my father laugh was in the living room of my childhood home. My father watched the TV screen in awe and in glee. And he was chuckling. My man was chuckling. My father, who was six foot four, 270 pounds, and an otherwise very stoic man, was losing his damn mind. What the hell was happening? It turns out that one of the greatest comedic talents of all time was on TV.
Seeing the young comedian on TV caused Key's stoic dad to let his guard down, and it opened a new world for a young Key. During his run on the sketch comedy series, Murphy was making viewers laugh weekly through his impersonations and memorable characters. The Oscar nominee’s comedy chops led to the pair sharing a father-son moment. In recounting the memory, the Key & Peele star pinpointed the specific Murphy sketch in his forthcoming book, saying:
Eddie does his own spot-on version of Stevie, IN FRONT OF THE LEGEND THAT IS STEVIE WONDER. What?!?? And then, get this, Eddie starts singing! Like he's going to sing better than Stevie Wonder. And he does! What the heck . . .? My little mind was blown. Ain't nobody in my house was ever the same again. My father and I both drank the giggle juice, and we were done. Finished. Fini. Terminado. Kaput. And if I am ever asked if there was a specific moment that started me on my path toward the mecca of sketch comedy, I would say it was this monumental moment, watching this scene, in that little house on Woodstock Drive off of 8 Mile Road. This was the beginning of all of it for me.
Murphy impersonating Stevie Wonder is one of the classics from SNL’s 48 seasons. Watching the comedy icon imitating the Grammy winner in his presence still elicits laughs to this day. Years after leaving the late-night series, fans still ask the comedy legend about the sketch or doing the impersonation. Understandably, the Stevie Wonder skit impacted a young Key, and the Dreamgirls star helped to revitalize the then-flagging show.
Key gained recognition on the rival Fox sketch series MAD TV before catapulting to TV stardom with Comedy Central’s Key & Peele. The Schmigadoon! star even lived out his SNL dreams by hosting the show in 2021. And just like his idol, Keegan-Michael Key got to participate in a viral sketch by spoofing Michael Jordan and his pop culture-dominating docuseries The Last Dance. Doing so led to some viral moments rivaling the Emmy-winning sports miniseries.
Keegan-Michael Key’s career has reached new heights since appearing on SNL. He made waves earlier this year as the beloved Toad in the blockbuster hit The Super Mario Bros. Movie. He still has more projects on the 2023 movie schedule too, including Wonka with Timothée Chalamet. The movie will arrive in theaters on December 15. If you love Key’s filmography, check out his most memorable TV and film projects. In the meantime, look over our 2023 TV schedule to see when Saturday Night Live will return to the small screen.