Last Friday, Bill Murray sat in for a Reddit AMA, and it was apparent in his answers that Murray is relaxed, carefree, and adventurous in his life, and with the kind of money and success he’s made, he’s allowed to be. Indeed, according to actor, director, comedian, and Hollywood God, “the more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything: the better you are with your loved ones, the better you are with your enemies, the better you are at your job, the better you are with yourself.”
Murray lives a very Zen kind of life, and he feels that, if you give something to someone else, he’ll give it back to you. “When I feel like I’m stuck, I do something,” Bill Murray once said. “There’s someone that’s forgotten about in your life, all the time. Someone that could use an ‘Attaboy’ or a ‘How you doin’ out there.” It’s a very Buddhist philosophy. “It’s just thinking about making someone else feel comfortable,” he says. “You don’t worry about yourself, because we’re vibrating together. If I can make yours just a little bit groovier, it’ll affect me. It comes back, somehow.”
That’s Bill Murray for you. Help yourself by helping others. If you also want to live the happy, zen lifestyle of Bill Murray, there are countless Bill Murray stories from which you can glean the know-how. Below, I’ve taken 20 Bill Murray stories, and distilled their essential lessons so that, by following these 20 simple steps, you can also be as happy and zen as Murray.
1. If you are ever feeling down, watch a great comedy. For example, you can watch the 2004 Stephen Chow film, Kung Fu Hustle, which Bill Murray thinks is the “supreme achievement in modern comedy.”
2. If you’re going to be petty with your co-workers, at least be funny about it. For example, during filming of Groundhog Day, Murray was going through a divorce and experiencing some profound emotional problems, which blew up on the set and ultimately cost him his friendship with lifelong friend Harold Ramis. In fact, even during filming, the relationship was so strained that, in order to make communication between him and Ramis and the studio even more difficult, he hired a deaf assistant, who only spoke using sign language. (Not for nothing, but Richard Dreyfus also dislikes Murray due to their working relationship on Groundhog Day. (He has since had a falling out with his deaf assistant, which he recounted in the AMA).
3. Pay a spontaneous compliment to a former lover. This is what Bill Murray did during a benefit at New York’s Museum Of Modern Art for Sofia Coppola. After six cans of sparkling wine, Bill Murray blurted out in front of the entire gala that Kathleen Turner was “a great f*ck.”
4. Life-threatening drinking competitions can make you appreciate life even more. So true, so true! In fact, during a drunken competition with Hunter S. Thompson to see who could out Houdini who, Thompson nearly killed Murray when he tied him to a chair and threw him into a pool. Murray almost drowned before Thompson could pull him out, but you can bet that Murray had a better appreciation for life after the near-death experience.
5. Offer advice to others. One thing that Bill Murray is most famous for is wandering around NYC and crashing parties, where he often offers fatherly advice to the other party goers. He might even sing karaoke with you, as he’s been known to do from time to time.
6. Go out and get lost every once in a while For example, Bill Murray once got lost riding a motorcycle in the jungles of Bali, and instead of panicking, he was eventually found by Harold Ramis in at a village store, putting on an impromptu performance with cheering locals, despite the fact he didn’t know a damn word of Balinese. Related: Try a New Food, as Murray did in eating a live eel.
7. Always Honor Your Friends. Bill Murray agreed to play Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters, only if he could play the role as originally written for the late John Belushi, as a tribute to his fellow SNL cast member.
8. When asked simple favors, go above and beyond to really impress. For example, instead of simply signing an autograph, Bill Murray once granted a guy’s wish to allow him to film him walking slo-mo down a hall, with which he created this short film.
9. Never answer to anyone you don’t want to answer to. During the Oscars one year, Bill Murray publicly fired his agent. Now he simply has a 1-800 number that filmmakers call and pitch him ideas on voice mail. If he’s in the mood and feels like working, he’ll listen to the voice mails, and if something sounds good, he might accept (unfortunately, it cost him his relationship with an agent who was instrumental in connecting him with Wes Anderson and landing him the role in Lost in Translation, which provided him with a career resurgence).
10. Pour drinks for strangers. It’s good for the soul. One year, during SXSW, Bill Murray went into a bar with RZA and GZA, walked behind the bar and began bartending. No matter what the customers asked for, however, he gave them shots of tequila, because he’s Bill effing Murray.
11. Random kindness to strangers will keep your soul filled. Among the many random parties that Bill Murray attended with strangers, he once went to a college party in Scotland and, noticing the sink was full of dirty dishes, he washed them while everyone else was partying (image via)
12. Never be afraid to voice your opinion, but be prepared for the consequences. Allegedly during the filming of Charlie’s Angels, Bill Murray pointed at Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu and, in order, said, “I get why you’re here. And you’ve got talent. But what the hell are you doing here? You can’t act.” Lucy Liu allegedly punched him for the insult, and the crew had to pull the two apart.
13. Help talented people out, and your efforts will be repaid. Although he was only paid a meager $9,000 to star in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, he also gave Anderson a check for $25,000 to film the final montage after the studio refused to finance it (Anderson never cashed the check). Despite earning next-to-nothing for the role, Rushmore was instrumental in launching Bill Murray’s second career as a more dramatic actor. It also led to an outstanding experience on The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which he recounts here.
14.If you take an easy job for the money, come up with a really funny excuse for it. Bill Murray tells everyone that he only made the movie Garfield because he confused its director, Joel Cohen — who directed Daddy Day Care — with Joel Coen, who directed The Big Lebowski. Is it true? Maybe. Either way, it makes for an awesome story, and you can read about it in its entirety here.
15. Go on unusual and random vacations. Bill Murray once joined an archeological dig off the coast of Cyprus just because he’s Bill effing Murray.
16. If circumstances dictate it, embrace — don’t fear — career change. Bill Murray was pre-med until he dropped out after being arrested for marijuana possession when he was 21. (He got caught trying to smuggle 9 pounds of dope through the Chicago airport). After he quit, he joined the National Lampoon’s Radio program with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, which would eventually land him on Saturday Night Live, after Chevy Chase left.
17. Take up a leisurely sport Bill Murray is a notoriously good golfer, but did you know he’s also an excellent bowler? In fact, in Kingpin, Murray actually bowled three strikes in a row, and the audience reaction in the movie was genuine and actually for Murray’s efforts.
18. Always quit while you’re ahead. When Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd sent Murray the script for Ghostbusters 3, he allegedly shredded it and returned it with a note that said, ‘”No-one wants to pay money to see fat, old men chasing ghosts.”
19. Pick up the phone and call an old friend every once in a while. Every time Bill Murray sees Roadhouse on TV (even if it’s at, say, 3:30 a.m.), he calls Kelly Lynch’s ex-husband to tell him that he just saw her sex scene.
20. Let loose, make a music video occasionally. Bill Murray was actually in a party scene for the music video of Buster Poindexter “Hot Hot Hot,” (Buster Poindexter was in Scrooged, as the cigar-smoking Ghost of Christmas past).
It’s at the 2:00 mark.