Bill Murray to receive Mark Twain Prize: How he's influenced film comedy

Bill Murray, who recently starred in 'The Jungle Book,' 'Angie Tribeca,' and 'A Very Murray Christmas,' will receive the award this October.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Bill Murray attends the premiere of the film 'Rock the Kasbah' in New York in 2015.

Actor Bill Murray will receive this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, following in the footsteps of comic legends including Eddie Murphy, Jay Leno, and Carol Burnett. 

Mr. Murray has recently starred in such projects as “The Jungle Book,” “Angie Tribeca,” and “A Very Murray Christmas.” He will get the prize at an event in October in Washington, D.C. 

The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was first awarded in 1998 to comedian Richard Pryor. Murray, a former cast member of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” is one of several “SNL” personalities to have received the award, including Billy Crystal, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Mr. Murphy, and “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels. 

Some of Murray’s earliest work was on “SNL,” and since then he has appeared in such comedies as “Meatballs,” “Caddyshack,” “Stripes,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Groundhog Day.” He was nominated for a best actor Oscar for a more dramatic turn in the 2003 film “Lost in Translation.” 

He has been praised for his impact on film comedy over the decades, with IFC writer Andy Hunsaker writing, “You just don’t get them better than Bill Murray. A born comedian with a dramatic range, his relaxed demeanor, easy delivery, and wiseacre nature make him a natural for whatever role you’d want him to take on.”

Meanwhile, Ryan Gilbey of the Guardian, who has called “Groundhog Day” “the perfect comedy,” wrote that much of that film’s success can be attributed to its star. When Mr. Gilbey rewatched the film at a movie theater, the audience “hung on Murray’s every poisonous putdown,” he wrote.

“His performances since then, from his collaborations with Wes Anderson … to his Oscar-nominated turn in Sofia Coppola’s ‘Lost in Translation,’ each have as their springboard ‘Groundhog Day.’ Before that, Murray was seen largely as a clown. After it, he was a complex actor with range.” 

And Rolling Stone writer Gavin Edwards writes that Murray’s comedic chops are often on display when the camera isn’t rolling as well. “Murray transforms even the most mundane interactions into opportunities for improvisational comedy."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to