Bill Murray’s Words of Wisdom: On Comedy, the Greatness of In-N-Out, and Searching For Great Love
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and that Bill Murray is a goddamn national treasure.
The rowdy comedy God responsible for Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, and a zillion other films both hilarious and poignant, stopped by the Howard Stern Show recently for a rare sit-down interview touching on the entire breadth of his career, from his early days knocking heads with Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live to his latest turn as a hell-raising, prostitute-sexing, child-caretaking war vet-boozehound in St. Vincent.
Fresh off a plane from Scotland, where the 64-year-old Illinois native was golfing at St Andrews, Murray sat down on a couch whilst chowing down on a Danish, and opened up to Stern—who is, it should be noted, one of the very best celebrity interviewers on the planet—about his wild ride.
Here are some standout moments:
On the George Clooney/Amal Alamuddin Wedding:
“It was a moving affair. It really was. [Me and George] met at the Venice Film Festival years ago, and sort of tore the place up. We had a rollicking good time. He’s a really fun guy, and a good man, too. People just got up and said things… There, it was just a really emotional night.”
On His SNL Fistfight with Chevy Chase:
“It’s a funny story. It was a Hollywood fistfight. Chevy and I are both good-sized fellas, and my brother is about Robin [Quivers’] size, maybe a little smaller, and he broke up the fight. It was like, ‘Don’t touch my face!’ ‘Watch my face!’ It was like an Oedipal thing because Chevy left, and there was a feeling like he left them. He was the breakout star, and was spectacular, and really took the focus that first year. He was amazing. And when he left, the original people felt like he left them in the lurch, like, ‘How could you do that? We were all in this together?’ and I was sort of the avenging angel, as the new guy. People were not discouraged that we got into a fight. But Chevy and I are fine.”
On His Favorite SNL Player:
“I think Bill Hader probably did the best work anyone ever did on that show. His attack on it was… it took him a while to get going, but when he got rolling, it was extraordinary. And that group he was in with Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and all, that group really had what that first [SNL] group had, which was that they had writing ability, and they were more actors than stand-up comedians… They made stuff work that a lot of other casts probably couldn’t.”
On Dating Gilda Radner While on SNL:
“Anyone who knew Gilda fell in love with her. So many people fell in love with Gilda. She was able to walk through life and walk down the street past eleven guys who were in love with her, had been in love with her, or were going to be in love with her. I really loved making her laugh, and she was really, really fun to make laugh.”
On How You Know You’re Funny:
“I guess it has to do with being able to tell stories. I don’t think you’re born with it, I think you have to hear stories, and you have to live stories, and you have to have a bunch of experiences, and say, ‘Here’s what happened to me yesterday.’ And if you can make someone laugh by telling them what happened to you, then you’re telling the story well. That’s sort of what I’ve learned.”
“I do not like people that complain about being famous, but I say to people, ‘Hey, you want to be rich and famous? Try being rich, and see if that doesn’t cover most of it for you.’ You have a bunch of dough, you can be as kind as you want, and you can be invisible. No one has to know you have a bunch of dough, and you can behave any way you want. You can be a secret kind of person.”
On Having Problems with Harold Ramis during Groundhog Day:
“What we got to was we got to a great film. When you work with people, you’re going to have differences of opinion. Harold’s my friend, and his body is still warm… I happened to hire a deaf assistant because I had a moment of thinking, ‘What’s it like to be deaf? If I hired someone that were deaf, I’d have to learn sign-language and all this stuff… But no [not to mess with Ramis], I don’t roll that way. And we made our peace about a couple of years ago.”
On Film Critics, and Roger Ebert:
“Roger was something unusual. All reviewers claim to love movies, but he really did love movies. And he killed me early on. He knew I was a Chicago guy, and he cut me absolutely no slack. I got him at the Cannes Film Festival later, and I think he’d seen Broken Flowers—a movie Jim Jarmusch directed which, to me, is the best thing I ever did, really. And he said something really nice in the midst of this giant press conference at Cannes, and I said, ‘That’s really nice, because I was told when I was young that I should do nothing but comedy.’ And he bit and said, ‘Who said that?’ and I said, ‘You did, Roger. In the Chicago Sun Times.’ And he just said, ‘I was wrong!’ But he was a good guy.”
On Not Digging Seinfeld:
“I had never seen Seinfeld, and they said, ‘Oh, it’s the last episode,’ so I’d never seen Seinfeld, and it was terrible. When I say that to people, I’d say, ‘I saw the last episode and it was terrible,’ and they’d say, ‘The last episode was bad.’ I’ve seen some of it and I see what people like about it, but the last episode was stringing worms to the moon. It was terrible.”
On Roles Murray Turned Down:
Tom Cruise in Rain Man: “Something about Rain Man.”
Denzel Washington in Philadelphia: “There was something like that [with Philadelphia] where I was on the back-burner.”
Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump: “I did have Forrest Gump conversations… I think I had the original book, and all that stuff.
On His Love of In-N-Out:
“In-N-Out Burger is a great hamburger. I remember being in Las Vegas once and for some reason the ride that they give you is a 91-foot limousine, and I said to the [driver], ‘In-N-Out Burger?’ He could barely get this thing through the drive-thru, and while he was in the parking lot trying to get this thing in, I just hopped out and went in. And I tipped him in In-N-Out coupons. It’s a great burger. They do a great job with it. The French fries are made out of real potatoes, the burger is great and you can get it all kinds of ways, and it tastes good. It’s definitely the best franchise burger by a million miles. There’s no comparison. I mean, it’s not even close.”
On Whether He’d Ever Do a Commercial:
“Well, I’m kind of getting asked to do that now. I’ve never really done that sort of thing and I’ve avoided it, and we used to say, ‘Once you do that, your voice is sort of compromised.’ But there’s something that came up that’s sort of a creative thing—it involves merchandising—and it gives me the chance to create and write something. It’s golf-related.”
On Whether He Reflects on Never Finding the Great Love of His Life:
“Well… I do think about that. I do think about that. I’m not sure when I’m getting done here. I have kids—I have children that I’m responsible for—and I enjoy that very much, and that wouldn’t have happened without women. I don’t think I’m lonely. It would be nice to go to some of these things and have a date, have someone to bring along. And to go play golf in Scotland, that would be fun. But there’s a lot that I’m not doing that I need to do—something like working on yourself, self-development, and becoming more connected to myself. I don’t have a problem connecting with people, my problem is connecting with myself. And if I’m not really committing myself really well to that, it’s sort of better that I don’t have another person. I can’t take on another relationship if I’m not taking care of the things I need to take care of the most. What stops us from looking at ourselves is that we’re kind of ugly if we look really hard; we’re not who we think we are, and we’re not as wonderful as we think we are.”