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10 Lesser-Known Bill Murray Roles You Might’ve Missed

Catch Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II this month on IFC.

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Warner Bros./Everett Collection

Rattling off titles from Bill Murray’s career is like reciting a compilation of the most rewatchable movies of all time. Caddyshack. Groundhog Day. Rushmore. Ghostbusters — which was just inducted into the National Film Registry and is airing on IFC this month along with Ghostbusters II. But for every Stripes or Lost in Translation, there are several other Bill Murray projects that have barely seen the light of day.

So, in tribute to the work of the universally beloved 65-year-old (and the Ghostbusters movies airing on IFC this month), here are 10 performances by Bill Murray you might’ve missed.

1. Nothing Lasts Forever, Ted Breughl

Equal parts Terry Gilliam, Georges Méliès, and David Lynch, director Tom Schiller’s feature-length debut (which sadly never received a major release) is a wonderful experiment in the absurd. The surreal story flows like a Kafkaesque fever dream, where the NY Port Authority runs Manhattan and trips to the moon are done by bus. Although Bill Murray plays the bus conductor in a small supporting role, his involvement helped propel the film’s cult status.


2. The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, Bill Murray the K.

Six years before This Is Spinal Tap, Eric Idle and Gary Weis all but established the band mockumentary with the Beatles spoof, The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash. The film skewers the Fab Four’s career with the faux lookalike band (nicknamed the Prefab Four) and features a slew of cameos including Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, and a chunk of SNL players — including Mr. Murray as loudmouth disc jockey “Bill Murray the K.” who’s super excited to hear the band “talk about their trousers.”


3. The Sweet Spot, Himself

One of Comedy Central’s odder projects, The Sweet Spot could be described as the golf version of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s culinary travelogue The Trip. Proving they love each other’s company, Murray brothers Bill, Brian, Joel, and John visit various golf courses, play a few holes, and involve themselves in the occasional shenanigan. Lasting only four episodes in 2002, the series was the perfect length to demonstrate what it’d be like to see Scrooged’s Frank Cross tease his brother in real life, too.


4. Where the Buffalo Roam, Hunter S. Thompson

Before walking scarf Johnny Depp portrayed Hunter S. Thompson, none other than Bill Murray played the gonzo journalist in the 1980 semi-autobiographical misfire Where the Buffalo Roam. Critically panned as a series of jumbled episodes rather than a cohesive film, the movie never quite found its footing as a watchable biopic. In fact, the behind-the-scenes anecdote of Murray nearly drowning when Thompson drunkenly tied him to a chair and tossed him into a swimming pool gives you a far better idea of who the man was.


5. Mad Dog and Glory, Frank Milo

There was a time when Bill Murray playing a dramatic role for the guy who directed Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was considered daring. Of course now, after his many dramatic and offbeat roles, Murray’s career is more malleable to disparate projects, allowing his depiction of a mob boss character in Mad Dog and Glory to go from “surprisingly against type” to “reliably versatile.” But however you describe it, it’s one of his most underrated performances.


6. Coming Attractions, Lefty Schwartz

An anthology movie with three different release titles (it’s also known as Loose Shoes and Quackers), this film is a compilation of fake trailers/movies much in the style of Kentucky Fried Movie and Amazon Women on the Moon. The segment “Three Chairs for Lefty” features Murray as a death row inmate trying his damndest to avoid the chair. With pitch-black absurdist humor — including a prison banquet gag that later appeared in The Naked Gun 33⅓ — this six-minute sketch deserves many more eyes on it.


7. Hamlet, Polonius

In the spirit of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 teen-throb-y Romeo + Juliet, Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet takes the frilly verbiage of William Shakespeare and inserts it into a modern-day setting — in this case, upper-class Manhattan. While the results depend on your level of patience for the style, Murray’s role as Polonius is rather interesting. As you can see in the above clip, his performance straddles the line between 16th Century England and 20th Century Chicago. By design or by accident, it’s worth a watch.


8. The TVTV Show, Performer

Before superstardom was in sight, Bill Murray was a part of a San Francisco-based video collective known as TVTV, or Top Value Television, which jump-started the careers of many big talents including Harold Ramis and Michael Shamberg. Along with fellow member and pal Christopher Guest, Murray participated in a segment during the 1976 Super Bowl. While it doesn’t have the entertainment value of the group’s other projects, it’s interesting to note the kernels of guerrilla filmmaking close to its inception.


9. Coffee and Cigarettes, Himself

The most popular segment in Jim Jarmusch’s 2003 anthology film Coffee and Cigarettes — mostly due to the unlikely combo of talent — Bill Murray works as a coffee shop server who sits and chats with Wu-Tang Clan founders GZA and RZA about dreams, nicotine, and the best way to get rid of a smoker’s cough. The chemistry between the trio is so fun and infectious, it’s hard not to wish Jarmusch’s entire film were just these dudes talking.


10. Quick Change, Grimm

The sole directorial credit in Murray’s storied career (he codirected with Howard Franklin), Quick Change debuted in 1990 as a critically successful underperformer. Centered around three bank robbers desperately trying to leave the inescapable purgatory that is the Big Apple, the movie has since reached cult status as a screwball Dog Day Afternoon with entertaining performances by Geena Davis, Randy Quaid, Jason Robards, and Murray as the sardonic bank-robbing, gun-toting clown.

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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