Murphy made his debut as a Saturday Night Live featured player on Dec. 6, 1980 in the middle of a "Weekend Update" segment and was promoted to the main cast the following month, on Jan. 24, 1981. "Back then, Eddie Murphy was all of 19 years old," says Alan Siegel. "The late-night series’s overwhelmingly white writing staff barely seemed to know that the young black man existed." But two writers, Barry Blaustein and his writing partner David Sheffield, wanted to do a "Weekend Update" bit parodying the news that a mostly black Cleveland high school had been ordered to diversity and add white players. So they turned to Murphy. “I asked Eddie if he thought he could do anything with it,” says Blaustein. “And then he wrote something up and he showed it to David Sheffield and myself. It was really, really good.” As former ESPN columnist J.A. Adande points out, SNL wasn't used to Murphy's skin color. "Notice they have to open the camera iris after he comes on, a sign of how they weren't used to having someone with darker skin on the show," says Adande. Siegel adds that "Murphy’s first season is widely considered the worst in the 45-year history of the series, but he became a life preserver whose presence helped save Saturday Night Live from drowning." As Sheffield notes, “the show would’ve been canceled without Eddie."