Bill Murray is not happy with comedy in America these days — and he says the divisive nature of identity politics is to blame, in part.
“It’s ‘Clash of Clans’ every day, first thing in the morning,” said the iconic “Caddyshack” star in a recent interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Murray said he admired actress Kristen Wiig’s nonpartisan appeal.
“How can Kristen Wiig make everyone laugh? She’s not thinking about being political. She’s thinking about what resonates and what is common to all of us. And I think that’s harder and harder to do because people are trying to win their point of view as opposed to saying, ‘What if I spoke to everyone?'”
The 67-year-old actor explained how he agreed with longtime “Saturday Night Live” writer Jim Downey about how liberals are separating Americans into groups instead of bringing people together.
“My friend who’s a great comedy writer, Jim Downey — he’s accused of being a right-wing comedy writer, if there is such a thing,” said Murray.
“‘No, no,’ he [Jim] says. ‘I just think the way Democrats handle things is poor. They pick out little pieces of a population and say they represent it — we represent the Hispanics, we represent the LGBT, or something.’ They’re not speaking to everyone at once. It’s almost demeaning to say I’m choosing you, because you’re a splinter group. There’s almost a resentment to say you’re my people. We’re being separated again by a politician.”
In the wide-ranging CNBC interview, Murray went on to describe President Donald Trump’s tax cuts plan as “fantastic” and suggested that the karma in the sexual misconduct scandals eventually would come back to get the Hollywood predators.
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Murray certainly sounded conservative — or at least libertarian — but his politics often have been Democratic, and he has been a staunch defender of Ralph Nader. In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Murray defended Nader, who took much blame for the 2000 presidential election result.
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“You know, that’s Al Gore’s fault,” Murray said. “We didn’t all come here to make the world easier for Al Gore. He should have run a better campaign. He ran a lousy campaign. He was the vice -president during the greatest economic boom in the history of the country.”
Whatever Murray’s politics, his disdain for Washington speaks to many Americans. “You know, I wish you could hold all of Congress prisoner, and they’d get Stockholm syndrome and have to go along with their captors. And their captors would be people who were real, true American citizens,” he told The Guardian.
Murray, star of “Groundhog Day,” said discourse in America tends to be dominated by “people who are trying to win their point of view” rather than trying to speak to everybody. These words are probably lost on Jimmy Kimmel, Alyssa Milano or Kathy Griffin.
But Murray is not the first to observe this dynamic in everyday life and especially in the comedy world. In 2011, comic Gilbert Gottfried got fed up with the “apology culture” and penned a piece in Playboy called “The Apology Epidemic.”
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld no longer performs on college campuses because the students are too politically correct to enjoy his shows. “They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist’; ‘That’s sexist’; ‘That’s prejudice.’ They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about,” he said on the show “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” in 2015.
Chris Rock told New York magazine in 2014 he doesn’t play college campuses either because students now force comedians into self-censorship. He said their social views and “willingness to not offend anybody” was a turn-off for him.
Actor John Cleese of “Monty Python” fame likely would agree with Murray’s assessment that Democrats have “picked out little pieces of a population.” Cleese once told Bill Maher that somehow we can “make jokes about Swedes and Germans and French and English and Canadians and Americans, [but] why can’t we make jokes about Mexicans? Is it because they are so feeble that they can’t look after themselves? It’s very, very condescending there.”
Murray’s comments may upset his Hollywood friends, but they likely will further endear him to many of his fans.
Comic Jim Norton told Time he’s had enough with a “tireless brigade of social justice warriors.”
Said Norton, “Being outraged and upset and feeling bullied or offended are not only things we enjoy, [but] they’re also things we have become thoroughly addicted to. When we can’t purposefully get our feelings hurt by a comedian, we usually find another, albeit less satisfying, source of indignation … I choose to believe that we are addicted to the rush of being offended, the idea of it, rather than believing we have become a nation of emasculated children whose only defense against an abyss of emotional agony is a trigger warning.”
Murray’s comments may upset his Hollywood friends, but they likely will further endear him to many of his fans because they are a measured plea for an open-minded approach for both comedians and those in their audience.