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Mark Twain Prize: Bill Murray Accepts Nation's Top Humor Award


It could hardly have been a better weekend for Bill Murray. First, his beloved Chicago Cubs made the World Series for the first time in 71 years. Then, last night, he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in Washington. NPR's Elizabeth Blair was at the Kennedy Center.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Bill Murray is notorious for doing things his way and for being elusive. So before the show, I tried to pin him down.

How well do you know the guy winning the award tonight?

BILL MURRAY: Huh? I'm working on it - some. He's hard to get to know.

BLAIR: But Bill Murray's characters are not hard to know. There was Nick, the lounge singer from "Saturday Night Live."


MURRAY: (As Nick the lounge singer, singing) Those raindrops keep falling on my head.


MURRAY: Thank you.

BLAIR: There was Carl, the greenskeeper, in "Caddyshack," who tees off flowers as he dreams of winning the Masters.


MURRAY: (As Carl Spackler) The crowd is just on its feet here. He's a Cinderella boy.

BLAIR: And Phil, the TV weatherman, in "Groundhog Day."

MURRAY: (As Phil) Do you ever have deja vu, Mrs. Lancaster?

ANGELA PATON: (As Mrs. Lancaster) I don't think so. But I could check with the kitchen.

MURRAY: (As Phil) No, that's OK. Thank you.

BLAIR: Subtle, roguish, scamp - those were some of the words used to describe Bill Murray by those who've worked with him, like "Ghostbusters" co-star Sigourney Weaver and director Ivan Reitman. Old friend David Letterman told a classic Bill Murray story about the two of them at Letterman's ranch in Montana.


DAVID LETTERMAN: One night after dinner, Bill said, well, what do you want to do? And I said, Bill, it's Montana. You don't do anything here.


LETTERMAN: And I said, we could rent a car and drive eight hours to Glacier or Yellowstone. And he said, well, no, no. No, there's got to be something to do. What are we going to do? And I said, you know what? Down the road 10 miles is a bar called Chicks. And we can go in there and get beat up.


LETTERMAN: And as I'm putting on my shoes, Bill's in the car.

BLAIR: They went to the bar. And Letterman says Murray charmed everyone in it. The show was filmed by WETA and MT Prize Partners for a PBS broadcast. Accepting the award, Bill Murray talked about growing up near Chicago with his eight siblings and thanked his older brother, who got him started doing improv at Second City. He seemed genuinely humbled by all the praise.


MURRAY: So my theme tonight is, what is it like to be beloved?


BLAIR: When he got the award, a bust of Mark Twain, Bill Murray gave it to audience members and told them to pass it around. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

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