Bill Murray: A Chicago-born Comedian

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Last summer, on a 90 something degree day, I was at the Jamba Juice on State Street waiting for my smoothie with about 15 other people. It was crowded, hot, and people were growing impatient. The young man at the register had to have been in high school and was a bit flustered with the orders.  He finally finished making one of the smoothies and shouted “Peter.”  No one moved. He looked back at the receipt and shouted even louder “Peter? Peter Venkman?” A couple people laughed when the man next to me stepped forward to claim his smoothie. I was a bit disappointed the teen behind the counter didn’t get the reference; the customer was even wearing a Caddyshack t-shirt. The man turned and I gave him an all knowing nod. He nodded back and I like to think we were both in on the secret, the secret of honoring one of the most hilarious, most bad ass Chicagoan of our time: Bill Murray.

Bill’s early years sound a lot like some of the kids I know from Wilmette, Illinois. Born into a large Irish-Catholic family, he attended Loyola Academy, and took a high school job as a Caddy. Bill needed the job to pay part of his tuition at Loyola Academy due to his father’s death when he was just 17 years old. He graduated from Loyola with plans to attend Regis University in Colorado. Instead of leaving with a degree, he left with a record of marijuana possession and returned to the Windy City after dropping out during his sophomore year.

He began studying at Second City and eventually decided to pursue comedy as a career, moving to New York and snagging a job on the National Lampoon Radio Hour. His coworkers were future comedy all-stars like Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd.  After National Lampoon Radio Hour, Radner, Belushi, and Aykroyd went on to star in the first season of Saturday Night Live, while Murray joined “Saturday Night with Howard Cosell.” It wasn’t until the show failed that Murray was reunited with his buddies at SNL.  He later went on to star in classics like Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, What About Bob, and Groundhog Day. Later on in his career, his roles evolved from more lighthearted to darker comedies like Lost in Translation and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

It’s safe to say Bill Murray is unlike anyone else in showbiz. He doesn’t have an agent or a manager, and has people call an 800 number if they want him to read a script. That is, an 800 number he “may or may not check.” Outside of acting, Bill was married twice and has six sons. Murray loves golfing and actually wrote a book entitled “Cinderalla Story: My life in Golf.” He also owns several Caddyshack restaurants in Florida with his brother.

Even though he no longer lives in the Windy City, Murray never lost his love for the Chicago, especially local sports. He’s a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan and has made numerous appearances at both home and away games. Bill graciously volunteered to fill in for Harry Caray after the announcer’s stroke in 1987, and continues to stand by the lovable losers even after years and years of heartbreak. In a special appearance at SNL after the Cubs lost the Division in 2008, Murray appeared as a concerned citizen in a mock debate between Obama, played by Fred Armisen, and McCain, played by Darryl Hammond. His question (of course, a very important one to us Chicagoans), was: “Last week, in the National League divisional playoffs, the Chicago Cubs faced the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Game 1; the Cubs lost 7-3. In Game 2, they lost 10-3 and in Game 3, 3-1. What, as president, would you do to guarantee that this never happens again? Senators, in your answers, please be specific.”  The opposing Senators finally agreed on one thing: the Cubs will never win the Series, to which Murray hung his head in defeat.

While he originally denied involvement, rumor has it that Murray will make one more appearance as Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbuster III. Hopefully now, the kid at Jamba Juice will watch it and understand the greatness that is Bill Murray.

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