The Improv Life: Go Watch “Ghostbusters” Knowing That Bill Murray Improvised Most of His Performance

The Improv Life: Go Watch “Ghostbusters” Knowing That Bill Murray Improvised Most of His Performance

I’m never going to be an advanced Jazz musician who can tell you about the complexity of a player’s performance through their performance and phrasing, but I can talk to you about watching Bill Murray in “Ghostbusters’ after having trained as an improv comedian and having my mind blown away by his intricate, free flowing performance.

Not everyone might know this, but Bill Murray’s performance in “Ghostbusters” was largely improvised.

I didn’t know this as a kid. I just laughed at the movie, and watched it every time it came on television. I couldn’t tell you why it was funny; I just knew it was funny.

Later on when I decided to give myself heart and soul to improv, I discovered that Bill Murray improved large swaths of Dr. Venkman, his character in the movie.

It was a summer holiday, and I decided to watch it, specifically observing for Bill Murray’s performance, trying to see if I could catch where he was improvising.

Bill Murray was Dr. Peter Venkman, a sly, charming, confident, charismatic parapsychologist who was unfazed by any task (except for dealing with Slimer). It’s simply amazing, his performance.

I was a chump; I realized I didn’t know shit about improv. (What was I thinking? Who did I think I was?). I realized how much I didn’t know about improv and how much more there was to learn.

Here’s my main conclusion: I couldn’t tell you what was improv and what was scripted. If you can convince your audience that what you just improvised was scripted, then you have achieved something amazing.

Yes, I know that there was a script and an outline for the character of Dr. Venkman, but Bill Murray took the character and made it his own, exceeding the boundaries of the script and creating something so completely original and spontaneous that it’s become myth. And for that, thank you. Happy Birthday, Bill.

#improv #billmurray #ghostbusters

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