Bill Murray has been a public figure for about four decades now, first reaching millions of American living rooms through his appearances on Saturday Night Live in the late 1970s before branching out into movies in the 1980s with films such as Caddyshack, Meatballs, and Ghostbusters. And he’s been a fixture on the talk show circuit during that time, too, noted particularly for his calamitous appearances on David Letterman’s NBC and CBS chat fests. But Murray’s career has taken a strange, unforeseen left turn in the last ten years or so. No longer a mere comedian and actor to his acolytes, Murray is now the object of near-religious reverence and the central figure of what could be termed a pop culture religion. Why and how did this transformation happen? Steven Kurutz decided to investigate, and he has turned his findings into a New York Times piece entitled “The Peculiar Ascent Of Bill Murray To Secular Saint.”

Robert Schnakenberg, author of The Big Bad Book Of Bill Murray, chalks it up what he terms a “three-legged stool” of fandom. While no actor can be all things to all people, Murray is many things to many people. The frat boys of the world love Bill for his party-hearty ’80s comedies like Stripes and Caddyshack and see him as a keg-draining kindred spirit. The hipsters adore him for his appearances in twee Wes Anderson films, including Rushmore and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. And the millennials can’t get enough of Murray’s unpredictable, real-world mischief, which includes crashing weddings and Halloween parties. These exploits are perfect for social media dissemination, of course, but filmmaker Tommy Avallone thinks that Murray’s real appeal is that he doesn’t care whether there are cameras watching him. As he puts it in the piece, “Bill Murray plays to his own audience for himself.”

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