In an alternative universe, I would have been an actor, and even better, an improv actor.
Scott Raab interviews Bill Murray for Esquire:
If you keep saying yes, they’ll stop asking you, too. That’s a much more likely event. I think we’re all sort of imprisoned by — or at least bound to — the choices we make, and I think everyone in the acting business wants to make the right choices. You want to say no at the right time and you want to say yes more sparingly. I came out of the old Second City in Chicago. Chicago actors are more hard-nosed. They’re tough on themselves and their fellow actors. They’re self-demanding. Saying no was very important. Integrity is probably too grand a word, but if you’re not the voice of Mr. Kool-Aid, then you’re still free. You’re not roped in.
Scott Raab: Your Second City teacher/mentor Del Close is a guy I’ve never read enough about. What was it that made him so influential?
Bill Murray: Well, he was a guy who had great knowledge of the craft of improvisation. And he lived life in a very rich manner, to excess sometimes. He had a whole lot of brain stuck inside of his skull. Beyond being gifted, he really engaged in life. He earned a lot. He made more of himself than he was given. Came out of Manhattan, Kansas, and ended up hanging out with the Beats. He was incredibly gracious to your talent and always tried to further it. He got people to perform beyond their expectations. He really believed that anyone could do it if they were present and showed respect. There was a whole lot of respect.
SR: Sounds like a great teacher.
BM: He taught lots and lots of people very effectively. He taught people to commit. Like: “Don’t walk out there with one hand in your pocket unless there’s somethin’ in there you’re going to bring out.” You gotta commit. You’ve gotta go out there and improvise and you’ve gotta be completely unafraid to die. You’ve got to be able to take a chance to die. And you have to die lots. You have to die all the time. You’re goin’ out there with just a whisper of an idea. The fear will make you clench up. That’s the fear of dying. When you start and the first few lines don’t grab and people are going like, “What’s this? I’m not laughing and I’m not interested,” then you just put your arms out like this and open way up and that allows your stuff to go out. Otherwise it’s just stuck inside you.
SR: Respect. I think that’s also a Chicago thing: Friendship is no substitute for gettin’ the job done.
BM: When I work, my first relationship with people is professional. There are people who want to be your friend right away. I say, “We’re not gonna be friends until we get this done. If we don’t get this done, we’re never going to be friends, because if we don’t get the job done, then the one thing we did together that we had to do together we failed.” People confuse friendship and relaxation. It’s incredibly important to be relaxed — you don’t have a chance if you’re not relaxed. So I try very hard to relax any kind of tension. But friendship is different. I read a great essay: Thoreau on friendship. I was staying over at my friend’s house and there it was on the bedside table, and I’m reading it and I’m thinking it’s an essay, so it’s gonna be like four pages. Well, it goes on and on and on and on — Thoreau was a guy who lived alone, so he just had to get it all out, you know? He just keeps saying, “You have to love what is best in that other person and only what’s best in that other person. That’s what you have to love” —
(click here to continue reading Bill Murray Interview – Bill Murray on Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom – Esquire.)
Oh, and I’m stealing this phrase for sure:
SR: “Everything happens for a reason.”
BM: That drives me nuts. I want to give them five on rye when I hear that. “Everything happens for a reason.”
SR: Five on rye?
BM: Five on rye.
SR: A knuckle sandwich.