Anyone calling themselves even casual Bill Murray fans — and we here at Open Culture have taken it well beyond casualness — will by now have read a number of articles on how the actor, comedian, and early Saturday Night Live alumnus has reinvented himself in the 21st century. Though he still acts and makes us laugh more than ever in so doing, he picks his projects more carefully, tends to work with creators possessed of particular visions (Wes Anderson comes to mind), and at times apparently lives his life like a form of self-satirizing performance art, popping up now and then in the least expected places amongst the least expected people. Fans of Murray’s from his Caddyshack, Stripes, and Ghostbusters days certainly wouldn’t expect to see him, for instance, at a poetry reading, much less onstage, much less reading seriously.
And yet here we have three examples, captured live, of Bill Murray’s poetry-reading acumen. Up top, you can watch him read former Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins’ “Forgetfulness” at the 16th Annual Poets House Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge. Just above, at the same event, Murray reads “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” by songwriter Cole Porter from the lyrics of Porter’s musical Kiss Me, Kate. Below, at the Poets House Walk dinner, he reads “What We Miss” by Sarah Manguso. We’ll add those three to the list of voices Murray’s performances have done justice — a list that includes such illustrious figures real and imagined as Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, and Drs. Peter Venkman and Hunter S. Thompson.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.