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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bill f*ckin Murray.

Distinct, consistent brand? Or maybe, people just expect you to do the one thing you’re good at. Not that Al Pacino would, but Murray shows up and starts bartending. Al couldn’t; people expect Bill Murray, well, should. Or posing as a Ghostbuster above.

Compare it to Leonard Nimoy, who wrestled with his I Am Not Spock/I Am Spock identity crisis, or Sting, who vowed never to end up singing Roxanne at concerts when he was older—and is now singing... Roxanne at concerts... older.

Bill Murray though has been The Man™ for several decades. Small indie roles. TV cameos. Bike shops. Dish washings. Poetry readings.

The understated I’m The Coolest Everyman You’ll Meet vibe was rarely seen on SNL. Maybe as part of Belushi’s classic cheeseboigey skit, or as an extra, but mostly he was over the top hammy, in effect parodying the future Weekend Update celebrity thing from David Spade and even Dennis Miller’s ultra-hip “babe” schtick.

It fit them.

Usually though, understated kills SNL cast members. Fairly or unfairly, the second they leave the show, the ones who were meh on the show end up wallpaper that nobody really remembers. (Even having memorable characters isn’t always enough for post-show success. Ask Joe Piscopo.) But on the show, SNL also has always been about the breakout character that can be driven into the ground.

I just don’t recall one specific character Murray created the way I can a Mike Meyers or Will Ferrell though.

I couldn’t see him change now any more than I could see Apple changing what it does. Or Coke. Okay, so maybe New Coke was like that one project every actor tries, fails at, then later regrets. (Think Jim Carry trying to be taken seriously.) Murray actually tried this move early on with The Razor’s Edge, but apparently, people weren’t ready for him to be lost in an adaptation of Somerset Maugham.

Which goes to expectations. Or does it.

People forgave the failures as long as you came back with what they wanted all along. But then, Murray hits the understated sweet spot and does his best post-schtick work (Caddyshack, et al.) this past decade.

(By ironic comparison, Chevy Chase never recaptured that same vibe that he nailed in CaddyShack and Fletch, preferring instead to play buffoons—minus the deftness of Jeffrey Tambor in Arrested Development and Larry Sanders.)

Wait, what? They just announced Ghostbusters 3? Oh.

Only Bill fucking Murray could pull that off.

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