Sunday, November 15, 2009

What's in a Name?

My given name suffers from Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome—it gets no respect!

Can you think of another name more associated with comical characters? Consider...there was Murray the Dog on Mad About You. Murray the Cop on The Odd Couple. Murray the Robot in something called The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, a 2009 movie based on a comic book series by Rob Zombie.

According to one reviewer, the animated film “follows the craziness of El Superbeasto (Tom Papa), his one-eyed, slutty sister Suzi-X (Sheri Moon Zombie) and the horny robot that she built named Murray the Robot (Brian Posehn). The three, mostly Suzi-X and Murray the Robot, must battle through hordes of zombie Nazis and stop the evil Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti) from marrying Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson), who is a stripper that El Superbeasto is lusting for and the only woman who can turn Dr. Satan into the powerful monster he wants to be.”

Gee, I always wanted to be in an adventure movie. No comment on the horny aspect of my character. By the way, here’s a link to the actor who voices Murray the Robot. You’ll recognize him from Just Shoot Me or The Sarah Silverman Show.

I was reading the Sunday NY Times Arts & Leisure section today, an interview with Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner on their 2000-year-old man shtick, when I came across this bit of interplay:

REINER: (He notices that Mr. Brooks is twiddling his thumbs.) Now watch this. Who was the first one to twiddle his thumbs?

BROOKS: Murray.

REINER: Murray? (He laughs)

BROOKS: Murray, the cave man.

REINER: What made him twiddle his thumbs?

BROOKS: He couldn’t go on the hunt. He had hurt his foot very badly the day before, a musk oxen had hurt his foot the day before, so he was in the thumb—he was in the cave, twiddling his thumbs. He was the first one to betray this nervous disorder, thumb twiddling. And when we all came back, we noticed it. We said, “Murray, kung voo roch mush?” We talked in a different language.

REINER: Yes, I see.

BROOKS: Cave talk (for) “Why the hell are you twiddling your thumbs.”

It’s an honor to be part of Mel Brooks’ and Carl Reiner’s zaniness (here’s a link to the full interview,, but did you notice that Reiner laughed at the mere mention of my name?

Perhaps, forget perhaps...positively, the most tenacious Murray tormentors are the creative people behind the Muppets and Sesame Street. They have no less than eight Murray characters: Murray, a member of the All Monster and a Guy Named Murray Chorus; Murray Monster; Murray the Minstrel from Fraggle Rock; Murray the Mediocre (magician); Little Murray Sparkles; Murray Beethoven, the honker; Murray Matisse; and just plain Murray, a furry blue monster from We All Sing Together. Check them out,

They’re not even apologetic. Here’s what Sesame Street puppeteer and head writer Joey Mazzarino had to say about using the name Murray:

“We were trying to figure out a name and I think a crew guy or a producer said he looks furry, how about Furry Murray? My grandpa’s name was Murray, and I was always naming characters Murray, like Little Murray Sparkles, there’s a Murray in the Halloween video. And I was like great, it’s my grandpa’s name, so I’m going to use it. And then the Word on the Street thing came about, and there was a marketing campaign behind it as a promo for the show, and we were trying to figure out who to use, and they said they really liked those Murray and kid videos, and we took a chance. People saw it and recognized it as Sesame Street right away, so it turned out to be really great. And then we did those Murray Has a Little Lamb pieces, and those were the greatest shoots ever.”

My father wanted to name me Max, after a brother who died in the Holocaust. My mother thought Max was too much of an Old World name. They settled on Murray. Max went to my cousin, Uncle Willy’s son. He was constantly teased when growing up, called Maxie the Taxi after an Eddie Cantor diddy. Here’s a link,

You be the judge...would I have been better off as a Murray or a Max?