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David Spade on Eddie Murphy SNL feud in new memoir Almost Interesting

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Rochelle Brodin Photography/WireImage; Paul Morigi/WireImage

David Spade is no longer afraid of Eddie Murphy, the comedian writes in his new memoir Almost Interesting

In an excerpt published by Salon, Spade revisits the feud between the two that began after he told a joke at Murphy’s expense during an early ’90s episode of Saturday Night Live. In the infamous moment, Spade riffed off of a picture of Murphy, telling the audience, “Look, children! It’s a falling star. Make a wish.” 

Murphy didn’t take the jab lightly. Spade writes of receiving phone calls while working inside the SNL writers’ room, and being verbally eviscerated by Murphy when he finally decided to take the call. (He even requested Chris Rock, their mutual friend, to come inside the room to guide him through the confrontation.) But Spade’s attitude has changed since he reflected on the moment in 1997, when he told EW, “Chris Rock told me, ‘Spade, Eddie’s got his biggest movie in 10 years, a beautiful wife, and he still can’t shake the fact that you took a swipe at him.’ I said, ‘Tell him three words that’ll change his life: Let it go.'”

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Spade writes in his memoir that he now understands why Murphy couldn’t let things go and even ruminates on the delicate nature of celebrity. After that first, painful phone call, Spade explains:

I barely spoke. I just stared at [Chris] Rock in disbelief. It was so much worse than I had imagined. I wanted to apologize, explain the joke, anything, but nothing came out. Here was one of my favorite comedians of all time ripping me a new a–hole. I had worshipped this dude for years, knew every line of his stand-up. And now he hated me. Like, really really hated me. The opposite of Sally Field.

It was horrible. I didn’t hate him. Of course not. He just got caught in friendly fire and my deep desier to make an impression on my bosses and keep my job. How pathetic. I took my beating and then hung up…

But the truth was that when you are famous, you never want someone on a supposedly cool show to say you’re not cool. Even if the person saying it is a nobody like me. Fame is so fragile and fleeting, and it can disappear for a million reasons. A jab like the one I had directed at Eddie can be the thing that starts to turn public opinion against someone. I try not to think of the casualties when I do rough jokes, but there are consequences sometimes.

I know for a fact that I can’t take it when it comes my way. It’s horrible for all the same reasons. I’ve come to see Eddie’s point on this one. Everybody in showbiz wants people to like them. That’s how you get fans. But when you get reamed in a sketch or online or however, that s— staaaangs. And it can add up quickly. Then before you know it you’re a punch line—just look at Vanilla Ice and five hundred million others. Eddie was mad. No one had dared go after him. And he wanted it to stop there.

Spade reasons that the hurtful joke was part of why Murphy refused to come back to Saturday Night Live for decades until a brief, stilted appearance at the 40th anniversary show. He goes on to explain that he continued to fear interactions with Murphy, until the two ran into each other in Los Angeles, and Murphy flagged him down to ask, “Hey, Spade, how are you doing?”

At that, Spade writes, “My Watergate with Eddie Murphy was over. My burden was lifted. After all those years, that stupid joke can just be that, a stupid joke. And I can go back to appreciating what a funny motherf—er he is.” 

Speaking in 2011, Murphy addressed the Spade incident himself in an interview with Rolling Stone.

“What really irritated me about it at the time was that it was a career shot,” Murphy said of Spade’s joke. “It was like, ‘Hey, come on, man, it’s one thing for you guys to do a joke about some movie of mine, but my career? I’m one of you guys. How many people have come off this show whose careers really are f—ed up, and you guys are sh–ting on me?’ And you know every joke has to go through all the producers, and ultimately, you know Lorne or whoever says, [Lorne Michaels voice] ‘OK, it’s OK to make this career crack…'”

Murphy said he “felt sh–ty” about the joke for year, but did eventually move on. “I don’t hate David Spade, I’m cool with him.” Murphy said.

Almost Interesting, Spade’s memoir, hits shelves Oct. 27. Head to Salon to read the rest of the excerpt.