Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via AP Images
Jeff Labrecque
October 05, 2011 AT 07:20 PM EDT

Ben Stiller is hosting Saturday Night Live this week, but the buzz heading into the weekend is that he might be joined by his Tower Heist co-star, Eddie Murphy, the biggest movie star that the sketch show ever produced. Nearly singlehandedly, Murphy maintained SNL‘s must-see status after Lorne Michaels left in 1980, and his four seasons — in which he played Gumby, Mr. Robinson, and James Brown — remain as dynamic a showcase as any performer’s in the show’s rich history. But since exiting the show for Hollywood millions in 1984, Murphy has returned to host only once. He couldn’t even be persuaded to appear at the show’s 25th anniversary party in 1999. Speculation has been that Murphy and Michaels feuded in 1995 after a snarky David Spade ridiculed Murphy’s sagging movie career — remember A Vampire in Brooklyn? — with the verbal dart, “Look, children, it’s a falling star! Make a wish!” during a “Weekend Update” segment.

Of course, time heals all most wounds, and Murphy, who shocked everyone with the announcement that he’ll host the Oscars next February, might be more open to a homecoming now. The New York Post is reporting that “Work is going on behind the scenes for Murphy to pop up” on Saturday’s show, but his publicist was dismissive of the rumors, saying only “Mr. Murphy is not planning on returning to Saturday Night Live at this time. Perhaps at some time in the future.”

I’m cautiously optimistic. Saturday Night Live is a no-brainer for Murphy — this week or at some point soon. It will help promote his film, which opens Nov. 4, it will be heralded as a glorious homecoming, and it will be good live-audience preparation for the Oscars while reminding viewers of why they liked Murphy in the first place. To be honest, there is a Does-He-Still-Have-It? curiosity surrounding Murphy’s willingness to host the Oscars. An solid appearance on SNL would help us determine if the Oscars have anything to fear.

What would you like to see Murphy do, if he cameos on SNL? A “Weekend Update” appearance? Resurrect a classic character? Or are you hoping for some raw stand-up?

Read more:

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Oscar producers on new host Eddie Murphy: ‘You cannot twist anybody’s arm to do it.’

Why Eddie Murphy should be raw during the Oscars

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