Bill Murray’s Favorite ‘SNL’ Memory Was His Most Humbling

One ‘SNL’ host blew Murray away with his appreciation for others
Bill Murray’s Favorite ‘SNL’ Memory Was His Most Humbling

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Bill Murray was recently in Austin, Texas for a fan event, and part of the agenda involved a question-and-answer session with the comedy icon. One Murray-phile asked him about his favorite SNL moment and the Not Ready for Primetime Player shot back a surprising answer. “My favorite SNL moment. There’s some I can’t tell you, of course, but let’s see. It’s going to take me a minute to clear those,” he joked, smiling as if remembering some debauchery that might still be worthy of prosecution. But then he got serious.

“I think the favorite one I ever had was my greatest moment of absolute and total humility,” he said. “You know how they play the song at the end of the show and the host is out there and the cast and everybody? They play the saxophone, they play the song. So we had to stand out there at the end of a show we’d just done with Mr. Ray Charles.”

Charles hosted during the show’s third season. In his monologue, Charles talked about how he found the show tasteless and offensive, but he was convinced to do the gig when Lorne Michaels promised him he could host the show from Carnegie Hall. “You see now, they think that I think that this is Carnegie Hall, but the joke is really on them because, you see, I’m not the real Ray Charles. The real Ray Charles is at Carnegie Hall.”

Charles proved to be surprisingly adept at comedy, shining in a sketch where he had to audition a group of backup singers called “The Young Caucasians.” The group of extremely pale performers, including a toe-tapping Murray, regale Charles with their whitewashed version of his hit, “What Did I Say?”

That night in 1977 blew Murray away, he told the crowd. “I never felt so … not worthless but so much that I didn’t belong on the same stage. Never! And I’ve been on the stage with huge people. But to see that fellow walk in and spend a week with us, know all his lines cold, play like five different musical numbers with his quartet, his septet, full orchestra, the Raylettes, and just murder everything he did. Just kill everything he did.” 


But it wasn’t Charles’ performance that impacted Murray. It was the singer’s ability to “just be completely cool and appreciative of other people. He had all that, and he was still receiving, receiving from other people.”

“He was an extraordinary person,” Murray continued. “That was probably the most undeniable moment I ever had there.” 


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