Eddie Murphy Revives ‘Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood’ to Lampoon Gentrification
Saturday night was a watershed moment in late-night television. Eddie Murphy returned to SNL for the first time in decades. As host.
In so doing, many of his iconic characters also returned, including Gumby and Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood. The latter being a riff on Mr. Rogers in the low-income Harlem of the 1980s. Well, this new parody aged in kind, with gentrification taking the topic of conversation.
The title card of the sketch plays on the demographic theme by showing an old tenement flanked by construction and a silvery condo building. Robinson enters the door and begins his dressing routine while singing about how the neighborhood has changed (“the check cashing place turned into a bank/the elevator works and instead they don’t stink/the white people came and changed everything/but I am still your neighbor”). He then defines the “magic trick” called gentrification (“white people pay a lot of money and then, poof, all the black people are gone”) and discusses “squatters rights.”
Eddie Murphy starred on SNL between 1980 and 1984 – when creator Lorne Michaels had left – and is credited with saving the series from cancellation. His more recent absence (and distance) from the show was largely to do with a wise-crack from David Spade during his Weekend Update segment in 1995.