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Revisiting the time when Bill Murray declared World War III live on SNL

Bill Murray has done a lot of crazy things over the years, ranging from crashing a White House press briefing to randomly applying for a job at an Asian restaurant. Hollywood’s resident eccentric has a number of urban legends and myths circulating about him, enough to warrant a documentary from Tommy Avallone called The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man.

His appearances on Saturday Night Live have been delightfully bizarre as well and incredibly interesting well. Murray left an indelible mark on the legacy of SNL with his wonderful performances, especially the time when he sang a beautifully erotic rendition of the Star Wars theme. He even told Chevy Chase to “go fuck your wife, she needs it” on the set of the show while Chase commented that Neil Armstrong would have no trouble landing on Murray’s pockmarked face.

However, a moment that is even more memorable in the Bill Murray-SNL saga is the time when the actor accidentally declared World War III on the show. SNL already had a reputation of blending comedy with current affairs by generating hilariously absurd news but on this particular occasion, it was taken pretty seriously as the Cold War was coming to an end after an excruciatingly long period filled with paranoid anxieties.

According to former SNL writer Don Novello, the show’s producer Dick Ebersol ran up to Murray during a commercial break and informed him that the USSR had invaded Poland. This was on December 12th, 1981, which means that the USSR forces hadn’t actually taken any action yet but the show’s producer was determined to make SNL the “comedy show that broke it to America that Russia invaded Poland”.

Novello revealed that Murray was hesitant to do it and was also shocked by the news but Ebersol convinced him to go through with it. Murray ended up going on stage and asking people to show solidarity with the Polish population who had supposedly been attacked, claiming: “I guess that means this is World War III”. Thankfully, it did not have any significant repercussions as nobody thought of SNL as a serious news show and chalked this report off as another bizarre comedic piece.

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