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The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life stories of Joy, Enlightenment and Party Crashing by Gavin Edwards

March 17, 2019

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If you don’t love Bill Murray, you can stop reading.  And you might as well turn in your America card and move to North Korea where they don’t value funny stuff. Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Kingpin, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Broken Flowers, Lost in Translation, Moonrise Kingdom, St. Vincent…No matter how you rank them, #10 on a list of top Bill Murray movies would still be an excellent movie.

Part of this book is about that—a full Bill Murray filmography, with a short review of each film. But the bulk of the book is dedicated to the dozens of stories collected from friends, actors, directors, and random people who have had a Bill Murray experience. Often this means Bill randomly dropping in on their lives, create an unforgettable moment, then disappearing (sometimes with the warning, “No one will ever believe you.”).

Betty Thomas, film director and former Second City cast member with Bill, described him as having a “charming assholeness.” It’s true—if it were any other person, he’d be getting punched out or thrown in jail more often. But it’s hard not to laugh. And beyond a good joke, Bill seeks opportunities to wake people up, to turn a mundane, forgettable moment into something they will remember forever.

This is what I love most about these Murray stories. If comedy is a gift from the performer to the audience, what Bill does transcends comedy. He recognizes that he has a special ability to bring joy to people’s lives in a way that feels surreal, almost magical. One friend likens him to Santa Claus in that way. On the screen, he’s a familiar, beloved face. On the street, he’s mythological.

Here are a few of my favorite stories:

  • Bill walking down the street telling a random passerby, “Look out! There’s a lobster loose!”
  • Bill using a book of “Japanese for lovers” as his go-to translation book for interactions while in Japan, asking the sushi chef, “Do your parents know about me?” or telling a stranger, “I don’t really love you anymore, so I’m going to change my phone number.”
  • Guest announcing the Cubs game and betting his fellow commentator a case of beer that Rick Sutcliffe—the Cubs pitcher—would steal second after making first. Word got down to Sutcliffe that Bill had a case of beer on him, so the next pitch he took off. Sutcliffe, slow even by pitcher standards, had not even attempted a stolen base in ten seasons. But with Bill’s faith behind him, he somehow made it.
  • As co-owner of the minor-league baseball team, the St. Paul Saints, Bill’s signature move every time he was asked to throw out the first pitch was to chuck it over the grandstand and out of the park.
  • Throwing multiple elderly ladies into sand bunkers at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
  • Showing up at a wine store in a torrential downpour on a scooter wearing the actual helmet Evel Knievel had worn when he jumped the Snake River.
  • At Soldier Field, after the Grateful Dead’s final show, Bill stuck around for hours to help the grounds crew clean the place (he’s also been known to lug around equipment with the grips on sets of his films).
  • On the set of Broken Flowers, Bill left the set, walked across the street and let himself into one of the neighboring houses. He didn’t knock, just walked in. A few minutes later, he walked out with a plate of cookies the occupants had given him and shared them with the crew.
  • Bill appears as a cameo in Dumb and Dumber To. But he’s in a full-body hazmat suit and gas mask, so he’s hardly recognizable. When asked by the directors what he wanted to be paid for his work, he said he only wanted the two beds with crustacean headboards that had been used in one of the scenes.
  • On “Bill Murray Day,” a new holiday invented by the Toronto Film Festival in 2014, Bill was doing a Q&A. For the last question, he called on a guy in a Ghostbusters costume. The dude asked what it was like to be Bill Murray. A throwaway question, but Bill took advantage of it to deliver an answer that gets to the core of who he is. He asked everyone in the crowd to answer, “What does it feel like to be you?”

Just think about how much you weigh. This is a thing I like to do with myself when I get lost, when I get feeling funny…if you can feel that weight in your body, if you can come back into the most personal identification—which is, I am, this is me now, here I am right now, this is me now—then you don’t feel like you have to leave and be over there, or look over there. And you don’t feel like you have to rush off and be somewhere. There’s just a wonderful sense of well-being that begins to circulate up and down, from your top to your bottom, up and down your spine. And you feel something that makes you almost want to smile. It makes you almost want to feel good. It makes you want to feel like you could embrace yourself.

So what’s it like to be me? Ask yourself: “What’s it like to be me?” The only way we’ll ever know what it’s like to be you is if you work your best at being you as often as you can—and keep reminding yourself that’s where home is. That’s where home is.

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