Second of a two-part story
Oscar-nominated actor and St. Paul Saints co-owner Bill Murray spoke with the MSR while in town August 2 for the American Association All-Star Game. Below is the second part of his interview with the MSR.
Bill Murray’s career started in the late 1970s at Chicago’s Second City. One of his brothers, already a member of the famed improvisational comedy troupe, invited him to join.
“I just saw myself as just making a living,” admitted the actor to the MSR. “We were funny but we didn’t consider ourselves actors.”
He continued, “John Candy and I started the same week, and the other actors [there] hated us,” remembered Murray. “He and I improvised together every night because they didn’t want to have anything to do with us. We did Stripes together (1981) and he was really great to work with. He was a real good guy,” recalled Murray.
Murray also spoke fondly of the late John Belushi, who recruited Murray to work on The National Lampoon Radio Hour. The two later would work together on NBC’s then-upstart Saturday late night program, Saturday Night Live.
Few remember that Murray’s first television gig was on the so-called “first Saturday Night Live” — as a regular was on Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell, a one-season variety show on ABC in 1975 and cancelled in 1976. Then he became a regular on Saturday Night Live for three seasons (1977 to 1980) before leaving to do movies.
“I’m only partial on ones that weren’t as popular,” stated Murray when asked to single out his best work. “I’d say there are three.”
Actually he offered four: Quick Change (1990), which he also co-directed; The Man That Knew Too Little (1997), Broken Flowers (2005), which he noted was “well written” and Rock the Casbash (2015).
“Groundhog Day (1993) was one of America’s great movies,” said Murray. “It’s in the Library of Congress — the writing of the movie was incredible.”
But making St. Vincent (2014), for which he earned a Golden Globe best actor nomination, was literally a hot and cold experience, recalled Murray. “I left South Carolina [where he lives] a couple of years ago to make that movie. It was hotter in Brooklyn — it was hotter than Charleston. I had to get into a cold bathtub every morning just to lower my body temperature to go to work. It was that hot.”
Sometimes actors can get on each other’s last nerve, especially “when you are on a job for a couple of months,” said Murray. However, he shared with the MSR of some of the actors he enjoyed working with over the years in his decades-long career.
A couple of the names mentioned were Melissa McCarthy, his co-star in St. Vincent. “She’s great, really funny,” he said. “She was good and she was playing straight,” he said of McCarthy, who is best known for her comedy.
“She got her training at The Groundling. L.A.’s version of Second City. More comedians started there, and a lot of fine actors came out of The Groundling. She’s nice to the people. You got to get along and you got to do the work,” he said.
“John Belushi was really a great actor. He had enormous talent,” continued Murray.
He also added that Candy “was fun and also a good actor.”
Murray also talked about SNL’s Canadian counterpart, Second City Television (SCTV) that ran between 1976 and 1984. The satirical sketch comedy based on a fictional television station began as a half hour program, and then expanded to 90 minutes. NBC aired it and got it earned 15 Emmy nominations. It twice won the Outstanding Writing Emmy during its 1981-1983 run.
Murry was among the show’s guest stars. Other stars included Candy, Harold Ramis, who starred with Murray in Ghostbusters, and directed him in Caddyshack, Groundhog Day and others.
“That show was fun and hilarious. Joe Flaherty was one of the great actors [on the show],” said Murray. “Rick Moranis is probably one of the best but never really wanted to be [in acting]. [Candy’s] stuff on SCTV was real good.
“Those guys was very bold. They are some very strong voices and opinions. They were very willful. They did pieces that had themes that ran for weeks and weeks. They had characters that ran and were developed for weeks and weeks. They had much better special effects, like makeup and prosthetics.
“We [SNL] didn’t have time to do it because we were live,” said the actor. “They (SCTV) were taped so they could do things, shoot film and a lot of different things that we couldn’t do. More like Monty Python.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the date of Quick Change as 1980 instead of 1990. The error has been corrected.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.