Bill Murray may be one of the fathers of American pop culture but that doesn’t make him immune from causing nightmares. At the Television Critics Association’s 2021 winter tour, Michael Schur shared an embarrassing story that’s haunted him for the past 20 years. And it all has to do with Bill Murray, Saturday Night Live, and disappointing your idols.
Michael Schur appeared during HBO and HBO Max’s TCA day to promote the network’s upcoming comedy-drama starring Jean Smart. The untitled series stars Smart as an esteemed comedian who’s more than a bit out of touch. To help her navigate this new time in her career, her management team convinces her to hire an up-and-coming comedian (Hannah Einbinder) to write her jokes. Immediately they don’t get along. But watching these two try to balance their egos while examining the current comedy landscape looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.
When asked if they’ve ever had to pitch jokes to an intimidating person, Schur jumped in. “For me it was Saturday Night Live, which is where I started,” Schur explained. “The actors are writers and the writers are actors. It’s a real show that — as Lorne Michaels is fond of saying — it doesn’t go on because it’s ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30 p.m. It sort of trains you to not be precious with your material and to just run up to people who are very famous and say, ‘I’m cutting all of your jokes’ or ‘I’ve got a new joke for you to read and you have to do it in the next eight minutes.’”
Clearly Schur has utilized that confidence. Not only was Schur a writer for The Office, he also created Parks and Recreation, The Good Place, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But that lesson didn’t come without its bumps. “I did a sketch once for SNL for Bill Murray with my friend Scott Wainio, and he really liked it. Then we rehearsed it on Thursday, and he came backstage and was like, ‘Who wrote this?’” Schur recalled. “He was like, ‘You ruined it. You ruined it. What did you do? You ruined it. You ruined the sketch.’”
“It’s literally my worst nightmare,” Schur added. “I think about it once a month for the past 20 years.” It sounds truly awful, but you know what they say about tragedy. Give it some time, and you have comedy gold.