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."

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