It’s a tale as old as, well, not quite as old as time. But, if you’re a fan of Bill Murray’s, it will probably seem familiar.
Here’s the latest version:
A guy works in some capacity on a movie starring Bill Murray. The guy is a fan, he has a friend who is a fan too. The guy gets a picture with Bill Murray doing something cool and sends it to his friend, who posts it on Reddit—and, within one day, about 1.5 million people have seen the picture. (In this case, the “something cool” is helping the guy light a cigarette—the movie is likely the in-production St. Vincent, judging by Murray’s facial hair.)
This is the picture:
Though the photo has proven worthy of viral enthusiasm, it’s pretty tame compared to the kind of stuff Murray has gotten up to in the past. Its advantage, however, is that—even if the Reddit caption is fabricated in some way—it’s an actual picture of Bill Murray doing something.
The most famous Bill Murray stories are rarely so verifiable. They usually involve complete strangers who are surprised by the star. There’s even a website, Bill Murray Stories, that collects the tales. That compendium admits to accepting budding urban legends that are known to be untrue—but the trick of a classic Bill Murray Story is that, at the end of the encounter, he tells the stranger that “no one will ever believe you,” thus confounding efforts to sort out which really happened.
So how did this whole thing start?
The original usage of “no one will ever believe you” is supposed to be in the context of covering a stranger’s eyes with his hands; in a 2010 interview with GQ he neither confirmed nor denied ever doing so (“But by God, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Just so crazy and unlikely and unusual?”).
The Google search volume for the phrase didn’t pick up until mid-2009, right about when a now-defunct Bill Murray Story website called “No One Will Ever Believe You” launched. But the earliest available search result came years earlier: in 2003, when Gawker published an anonymous tip from a reader who claimed that one of her friends was ” walking through the Union Square [subway] station when Bill Murray walked up to him, gave him a noogie and then whispered into his ear: ‘no one will ever believe you.’” There are no earlier online traces of Bill Murray whispering anything to that effect, and this ur-anecdote is hopelessly unconfirmable.
The legend, however, is helped along by Murray’s oddball persona—and by several verifiable close encounters. There’s the time he was a ringer in an adult kickball league game. There’s the time he joined a group of friends singing karaoke in New York City (and, at that same link, a few other less-fantastic cameos). There’s the time he crashed a Brooklyn Halloween party (though that one doesn’t come with pictures) and the earlier time he party-crashed in Scotland, complete with helping with the dishes (ditto).
There’s only one potential problem for Bill Murray, if he keeps showing up in share-able stories and photos: the more he proves to be this extraordinarily friendly, the less likely it is that no one will ever believe.