“Thank You for stopping what you were doing to come here,” said Bill Murray, in his usual deadpan fashion, to a sold out audience at Suffolk University’s C. Walsh Theatre. “I hope you’re all comfortable. Does anyone need anything?”
That was his opening line. The event was a laugh-out loud-marathon from that point on.
The Academy Award-nominated actor had people eating out of his hand – literally. Every so often he would reach into a shopping bag and toss candy into the audience, usually followed by a humorous quip.
Murray was on campus to support his longtime friend and former Saturday Night Live sidekick, James Downey, recipient of the Ford Hall Forum’s 2012 Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award during a discussion of “Strategery: SNL’s Remarkable Influence Over Politics Through Satire.”
Downey has been a writer for SNL for more than three decades, putting his hilarious words in the mouths of countless comedic actors. His political satire has helped shape the national conversation year after year, and he has proved that the pen is mightier than the sword when it points out the foibles of political figures.
“Jim is the best writer I worked with at SNL,” said Murray in one of his few serious moments. He then smiled, “He’s my friend.”
Downey then got into the act. He said that while he was grateful to be receiving the First Amendment Award – awarded annually by the Ford Hall Forum for 32 years – he did bring along some clips of his show “that I’m certain will offend some people here.”
Throughout the two-hour event, Downey and Murray talked at center stage as if they were in the living room of their home – comfortable as can be. They had planned to prepare their presentation on the four-hour drive from New York City, but they had an Emmylou Harris music marathon instead.
Yet the comedic duo put on a memorable show, tickling audience funny bones with hilarious stories and reminiscences about former SNL cast mates, including Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Phil Hartman and Chris Farley.
A montage of skits written by Downey had audience members in stitches, and tears of laughter accompanied bits about Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Osama bin Laden, and legal commentator and television host Nancy Grace.
When Downey debated about showing a piece about 9/11, Murray blurted out, “This is an ugly crowd. “If they don’t like it, you’ll know right away.”
During the question and answer session, one student asked for advice about breaking into the comedy field. “Get a good liberal arts education,” said Downey. “And look for somewhere where you can perform or write, where you have an audience. It will make you better until you graduate.”
Another student approached Murray for his advice about becoming a comedic actor. “Don’t worry about yourself in a scene,” he said. “Just make sure the other person looks good.”
Murray couldn’t control himself when yet another student’s question went on too long. “It’s too wordy,” he snapped. “I’m going to give you a B and send you back to Iowa.”
He then smiled and tossed the student a piece of candy.