Opinion

Why does Bill Murray have no friends?

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Tristan Cross
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Why does Bill Murray have no friends?

Bill Murray will be bartending in a Brooklyn bar this weekend. That’s right, if you just nip on over to America and turn up at 21 Greenpoint, you could be served by Bill ‘Freaking’ Murray.

“Bill Murray?!” You say, spitting hot tea all down your Ghostbusters boilersuit, and somehow upwards, onto your red Steve Zissou beanie. “Bill Freaking Murray? The main Ghostbuster in Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2, the gopher killer in Caddyshack, the contemptuous weatherman in Groundhog Day, the hotel guest in Lost In Translation and the ubiquitous thousand-mile-stare sighing glum man in every Wes Anderson film? Is going to be bartending?! Even though he surely has better things to do? Simply epic… and totally awesome!”

This isn’t the first time Bill Murray has shown his down-to-earth side and his wacky sense of fun, nor even turned his hand to bartending. Why, here he is at SXSW serving tequila with Wu Tang Clan! And here, playing kickball with a group of strangers

Then there’s the other time he sang karaoke with some strangers. Then there’s the time he inserted himself into two strangers’ engagement photoshoot. Then there’s the time he joined a stranger’s bachelor party and gave a rambling speech

Then there’s the time he turned up at another stranger’s birthday party. Then there’s the other time he’s crashed another strangers’ house party. Then there’s the other time he crashed some Scottish students’ (almost certainly strangers) house party and cleaned the dishes. Then there’s this whole website dedicated to Bill Murray stories of all the times Bill Murray has spent his nights in the company of people he doesn’t know.

You might even remember Bill Murray from your own anecdotes. Remember the time Bill Murray turned up at your school leavers’ ceremony and threw an egg at your headteacher? Or when Bill Murray walked into your house, snatched your Xbox controller off you and completed GTA San Andreas? Or when Bill Murray gatecrashed your village fete and went on the bouncy castle until he had to be forcibly removed because he was making the toddlers throw up? Or when Bill Murray arrived at your nan’s wake on a quad bike – even though you were pretty sure she and Bill Murray had never met – then Bill Murray proceeded to cane the free bar, commandeered a PA system, sang Wonderful Christmas Time three times in a row, lead a conga line into someone else’s funeral, then got too giddy and keeled over backwards onto the table with all the wreaths, then had to be taken to hospital and kindly posed for selfies with you and your dad in the back of the ambulance?

Why does Bill Murray, a multi-millionaire with the profile and bank balance to do anything he could conceivably want to with his free time, turn up at so many strangers’ gatherings? And why does Bill Murray - a beloved actor whose several-decade-spanning career means he probably knows everyone who’s anyone - love interacting with the unimpressive general public so much? And why does Bill Murray, a 65-year-old man, go to student house parties and do the dishes?

There are three conceivable explanations:

1. Bill Murray is just freaking awesome

This is the most widely accepted theory. Bill Murray cavorts about because he wants to, because he just doesn’t give a fuck. Bill Murray is your favourite Bill Murray character from your favourite Bill Murray movie away from the cameras. He’s endlessly charming and disarming, the fun-loving Peter Pan-man with a carefree feel for living, loving and learning. To Bill Murray, ageing is but a minor inconvenience to his partyboy lifestyle and certainly not the end of it. Bill Murray listens to you opine about ‘acting your age’ and then shoots you in the nuts with a nerf gun. 

And Bill Murray doesn’t care whether you’re an Academy Award winner or a raffle loser, because Bill Murray is a friend to all. Though everyone looks up to Bill Murray, Bill Murray never looks down on anyone. Bill Murray is every man’s everyman. Bill Murray wakes up every day and doesn’t feel constrained to what he should do, Bill Murray just does what he feels. Bill Murray is living the life we all dream we could, and think we would, if we were famous. You wish you were Bill Murray.

But hold on to that wish for a hot second before tossing it into the fountain. Imagine being Bill Murray. Imagine having the choice between going to, say, your actual friend’s house, or out for a meal, or the pub, or just doing nothing at all; and instead willingly deciding to spend an afternoon with a gaggle of fawning people you’ve never met telling you how much they love you.

“An adoring mass telling me they love me sounds pretty good actually…” But what if that adoring mass just shouted the exact same lines from Ghostbusters that have been quoted at you every day for the last thirty years in your ear? What if you also knew that anything you ever said or did in such a setting would end up documented on a website? What if, every time you just wanted to get smashed and make a fool of yourself, you were extremely aware it wouldn’t remain a private indiscretion, that instead your dignity would be goaded out of you by an audience of clapping strangers, as though you were a toddler taking their first steps?

Seems like sheer hell, and yet Bill Murray regularly goes out of his way to do exactly this.

2. Bill Murray feels sorry for the content farmers

Despite the flimsy, disposable nature of everything that’s ever been published online, finding more stuff to foist onto the internet can be difficult sometimes. My day is generally comprised of switching between different news sites and social media, panning for nuggets of viral gold in among the silt and the sludge, having to settle on a news story about yet another building that the general public have voted in a poll to rename ‘Harambe’.

Maybe Bill Murray sees this. Maybe Bill Murray understands the struggle of the humble content farmer and wants to help alleviate our burden. Maybe Bill Murray’s existence is some living art project-cum-wacky circus act, dedicated to performing silly stunts all year round purely to help us out. Maybe Bill Murray checks ShortList.com, sees it’s been a slow news day and then goes paintballing in a zoo.

Do you know how many hits ‘Bill Murray Goes Paintballing In A Zoo’ would get? Loads. My editor would give me the week off. We’d meet every target for the month and advertisers would pour money into our company. We’d be able to hire more people and deliver more of the great content you love. In fact, every moment Bill Murray isn’t going paintballing in a zoo, Bill Murray is taking food out of the mouths of our potential future employees and great content out of the eyes of you, the dear reader.

But if Bill Murray truly cared about the content farm, he wouldn’t have dispensed with agents and publicists in favour of a 1-800 hotline that he barely checks. In fact, his lack of checking has almost certainly seen him miss out on landing countless roles which would’ve been very easy to write about. If Bill Murray was actually invested in the toil of the content mines, he also wouldn’t be so famously recalcitrant towards doing interviews. Bill Murray pretty much only speaks to David Letterman, who has now retired from television, so now Bill Murray pretty much speaks to no one in the media.

No, Bill Murray doesn’t feel sorry for the content farmers. Which leaves only one explanation…

3. Bill Murray has no friends

Picture the scene: you are a celebrity who has invited Bill Murray to your party. And you can’t just throw a party as a celebrity, because all your other celebrity pals have massively conflicting schedules, so you have to plan meticulously for months in advance. And if your party is rubbish, the press will know, and that will mean you’ll become known for being some sort of celebrity loser unable to do something as basic as throw a party. That’s pressure.

You’ve hired a whole bunch of people to bartend, to wait tables, to man the doors and to DJ. It’s the big day. You’re stressed out. Everyone arrives on time, everyone on good form, everyone enjoying themselves. You flit between mingling opportunities. You’ve pulled it off, a top celebrity bash! And then Bill Murray goes and chucks two fans’ phones off the roof.

“For chrissakes, Bill Murray,” you sigh. “Every. Damn. Time.” 

Bill Murray rings you up and asks if you’d perhaps like to play a round of golf, and you agree because what could possibly go wrong? Just you two, a fine stretch of green and an extremely subdued sport. And then Bill Murray drives his golf cart down a motorway in Sweden.

Soon you stop answering Bill Murray’s calls. Bill Murray is a liability. You can’t trust Bill Murray not to make a scene. Every invite to the theatre conjures horrible premonitions of Bill Murray storming the stage in a zorb. Every promise to ‘just hang out’ runs the risk of Bill Murray inviting a local scout regiment round your house and playing an impromptu game of baseball in your living room with your Grammy as a bat. Every ‘quiet night in’ will undoubtedly end with both of you embroiled in a police chase, blackout drunk and riding elephants you’ve stolen from a Las Vegas casino.

Take Bill Murray’s behaviour out of the context of him being a beloved celebrity and it’s actually bleak and tragic. In normal circumstances, a 65-year-old man turning up alone, off their face and uninvited to student parties would almost certainly find themselves arrested. You’d be putting in a few concerned calls to their family members, at least.

But because Bill Murray has his cult ‘Bill Murray’ persona, we don’t see a near-pensioner erratically stumbling blind-drunk from house party to festival bar and back again. We don’t see what we would generously describe as a ‘cry for help’ in anyone else. We see Bill Freaking Murray, doing what he wants and living life to the fullest. And we cheer him on.

This weekend’s proposed bartending stunt is an alarming development in Bill Murray’s quest for something to do and people to get hammered with. Usually, he does this stuff entirely unannounced, but this time he’s let everyone know in advance, so there will be multiple times as many fans in attendance as usual. He’s desperate for company. As vampires need blood to remain young, a ravenous Bill Murray roams the globe, looking for more strangers to drink with, to party with, to witness to his disgraces.

But Bill Murray will never quench his thirst, because Bill Murray will never party with enough strangers. What Bill Murray truly needs is a friend.

Dan Aykroyd, David Letterman, Wu Tang Clan, Wes Anderson… if you’re reading this; pick up the phone.

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Tristan Cross

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