There are about 1-800 reasons to love Bill Murray.
Willie Geist, who’s celebrating the five-year anniversary of Sunday TODAY this weekend, says getting the comedy legend to join him for a Sunday Sitdown in 2018 proved to be a watershed moment for the show because it involved calling a 1-800 number the actor has to keep solicitors at bay.
Watch TODAY All Day! Get the best news, information and inspiration from TODAY, all day long.
The “Ghostbusters” star eschews traditional Hollywood norms; he reportedly doesn’t have an agent or a publicist. Instead, people have to leave a message on his 1-800 number and hope he’s intrigued enough to return the call.
“I don’t know if people realize — he doesn’t have an agent, he doesn’t have a publicist,” Willie said Friday on TODAY while chatting with Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker and Sheinelle Jones. “You call a 1-800 number. You leave a message on an answering machine — Al knows this — and if he’s interested, he’ll call you back.”
Willie said he never got a call back when he pursued an interview, but Murray had come to TODAY to do a live interview during the week and brought up doing the Sunday show while waiting in the green room.
“And he shouted to our booker, ‘I want to do that Willie Geist show. Let’s just do it after this,’” Willie recalled before noting they set up their interview for the next day.
“If you get enough people to trust you for a while, then the other people start to see their friends on the show,” he said.
Murray says he got the 1-800 number to avoid agents who would pester him at his home.
“I had a house phone, and it would just ring and ring,” he told Indiewire in 2019. “Finally, I’d pick up the phone and I’d say, ‘Who in the f--- is calling me and letting my phone ring like that?’"
The agent would say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I’m calling for so-and-so.’ I’d say, ‘Look, you can’t do this. This is my house. If I don’t answer the phone, don’t do that because you’re making me not like you.’”
“I just unplugged the phone and then I got this 800 number, which is very handy,” he added.
So, what does it take for Murray to respond to a message?
“Well, you know, you want manners,” he said to Willie in their 2018 conversation.
“It’s like mail,” he added. “It used to be that there was mail and then there was mail. And now they’ve spent a lot disguising mail to make it look like it’s mail when it’s really just a solicitation.”