WASHINGTON — Out of a star-studded lineup of top actors, comedians and musicians in attendance at the Kennedy Center to toast Bill Murray, it was Miley Cyrus who generated the most attention from the honoree.
After Cyrus botched her performance at Sunday night's salute to Murray, who received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the actor stood from his seat in the balcony and declared, "We're safe now. How 'bout those pipes? Do it again! Do it again!"
"This is live entertainment!" shouted Murray, 66, as the audience roared with laughter. "This is happening now in Washington, D.C. — the 51st state! If it had statehood, that wouldn't have happened!"
And so Cyrus gave it a second shot, nailing the lyrics and cleaning things up for the version that will broadcast Friday on PBS as Bill Murray: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize (check local listings for times).
While Cyrus garnered laughs for her expletive-filled snafu, the evening was filled with many touching moments.
A bearded David Letterman showed up to honor Murray, who was a guest on his late-night shows 44 times. They became good friends, and Letterman spoke of how in 2003 he received a package at his office containing a handmade Irish christening gown. Earlier, he had mentioned to Murray that his son, Harry, was to be christened that weekend. "That Saturday, my son, in Bill Murray's christening gown, was christened at St. Ignatius in Manhattan, and we have this memory, we have this gift, we have this gesture for the rest of our lives," Letterman said.
Emma Stone, who co-starred alongside Murray in Aloha, noted that he "brings a kind of generosity and caring" to everything around him.
Murray's former Saturday Night Live co-star Jane Curtin noted that "he went from brilliant sketch actor to brilliant film actor."
And, of course, there were plenty of jokes at Murray's expense.
"I worked with Bill on two Ghostbusters movies and we did this love scene. ... Where the hell is my prize?" joked Sigourney Weaver.
Steve Martin, appearing via video, said, "As a previous recipient of the Mark Twain Prize, I'd like to say to you, 'Welcome to the club,' and to the Kennedy Center, 'Really?' "
"I think you and I are about as close as two people can be, considering that one of them is you," Martin added.
Finally, Murray took to the stage to accept a bronzed bust of the late, great satirist — which he promptly handed to a member of the audience with instructions to "pass it around."
Murray, the fifth of nine children, paid tribute to his older brother, Brian Doyle-Murray, who had to support the family after their father died. He also helped his younger brother get his start in improvisational theater.
"My brother had more guts than anyone I ever knew, and the only reason I'm here tonight is because of the guts of my brother Brian," Murray said. "He's been waiting a long time to hear that."
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