It’s been a while since Bill Murray has appeared in straightforward, laugh-out-loud comedy, and, ever since appearing in 1993’s Groundhog Day, has seemed to be more geared toward the melancholic than the uproarious. Which is fine; there’s humor in subtlety, especially (but not always) in the work of Mark Twain, which is why it’s appropriate that this late-era Murray will be receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor later this year.
Well, that’d be true if the award actually had anything to do with Mark Twain, which it really doesn’t. It was founded in 1998 and is awarded by the Kennedy Center. The most that it has to do with Mark Twain is the fact that he was pretty funny and also that the statuette is a bronze bust of the guy, which is pretty cool, and would make a good weapon in the zombie apocalypse.
Murray, in response to the news that he’d be given the award come this October, had this to say: “I believe Mark Twain has rolled over in his grave so much for so long, that this news won’t disturb his peace.” Former winners of the prize include Eddie Murphy, Jay Leno, Carol Burnett, Billy Crystal, and, well, Bill Cosby, so it’s pretty certain that, yeah, Twain has been rolling around in his grave for a while now.
For what it’s worth, the Center’s president, Deborah F. Rutter, said,
“Since his first performances on Saturday Night Live more than three decades ago, Bill Murray has charmed us with unforgettable performances from an eclectic cast of characters that have become ingrained in our cultural vernacular. An award-winning writer, actor and comedian, his brilliant wit and infectious spirit continue to inspire our laughter across generations both on and off the screen. His unique brand of humor seems to defy time itself — always remaining relevant and relatable to new audiences — much like our award’s namesake.”
All of that is true, even if his last role was in The Jungle Book. His next appearance will be (we assume) a cameo in Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters, and, most likely, whatever the next Wes Anderson project is.