it’s foolish to think
I could siphon
a single line
from these paint splattered street
Cormac set Suttree upon-
the best I’ll managed
is a road map to points
I’ve dreamt of
through glasses tinted
by some approximation
of a recycled originality
that might one day save me-
the tilt of flagstones
planted on legacy grounds
staring at art I’ll never hope to
all part of the fabrications
no one will step forward
I’ll circle back
a third time before
the night’s over,
rub a sprig of rosemary
between my fingers
and dream of home,
a comfortable chair beside
a fire I can stare into,
some distant kettle warming
the broth I’ll use
all of these dreams away,
clean and undisturbed
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Murray: I guess I stumbled into writing while I was performing in the clubs. I had a weekly sketch/improv/standup show at the Ice House in Pasadena. Myself and the other guys would meet every Thursday before the weekend of shows and write bits and jokes. At the time my influences – some might even might say I was stealing from – British comedy like Monty Python and The Young Ones. I also tried to be a lot like Woody Allen, which proved to be very difficult for an Italian raised in New Jersey. Eventually we shot a pilot for that show and like most pilots, it didn’t go anywhere. But the production company we were working with hired me to write another pilot. That did get picked up and that started my TV writing career. That sketch group dissolved and I continued on as a stand up and writer. Since then, I’ve performed in 6 different countries and I’ve written for TV, film, radio, newspapers and magazines. I feel very fortunate to have stumbled into something like writing that I love to do, but I don’t think it would’ve never happened if it wasn’t for stand up.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Murray: I feel like my biggest influences today are my friends. I have somehow surrounded myself with some of the funniest people I have ever met. Their constant output of quality material – whether it be writing, performing or podcasting, really makes me try to step up my game.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer/comedian?
Murray: I have always wanted to be a stand up, so there was really no pivotal moment with that. But it took some time for me to really pursue it. There was one moment when I was starting out that was extremely pivotal. I was supposed to do 3 minutes on an open mic. I had maybe 2 minutes of material. None of it particularly funny. The Emcee of the show left the room during my set and I ended up being on stage for 25 minutes. I was forced to think on my feet and riff for close to a half hour… and it went great. That night I realized I can do this… and then I went on to bomb consistently for the next 2 and half to three years, before I started getting any good.
Q4: Who has helped you most with your writing & comedic career?
Murray: I feel like if it wasn’t for the Executive Producer of that first pilot, Mack Anderson, I would be a totally different writer, if even a writer at all. He gave me a shot having never written for television before and showed me the ropes. He continued to hire me on different shows throughout the years and I believe my style of writing, especially for television is a direct result of him.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/comedy & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Murray: I was born in Memphis, but we moved around a bit when I was young. We eventually settled in New Jersey. I feel like having lived in the South, Midwest, West and East has been extremely beneficial when it comes to writing and standup. When I’m touring through those states, I can draw on my own experiences and knowledge of having lived there. Being that I write mostly from personal experiences, anything I can absorb and take in, can be pulled out at anytime. Since this question is about travel, I’ll give you an example. When my son was 2, we lived in a suburb of Calgary called Okotokes for about 3-6 months. Not really sure how long, I tried to block it out. It was rough. I was a stay at home dad, in a small town in another country where we didn’t know anybody and the town was shut down due to the worst flood on record. Again, it was rough. Four or five years later, I’m performing in Las Vegas and on this particular night there was a table of Canadian’s from… Okotokes. I ended up doing 10 minutes on a town that only 4 of the 300 people in that room have ever heard of and it was great. All 300 loved it. I have never done that stuff on Okotokes since… and I probably won’t.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Murray: I really feel like what I’m doing in my live show now, is probably the most meaningful work I’ve done. I had very serious health scare a couple of years ago. I ended up having emergency open heart surgery. Spoiler alert, I lived. I talk about that experience on stage now. After shows people come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed the show and share their own experiences with me. I remember I did a fund raiser for the American Cancer Society. The room was filled with cancer survivors, people battling cancer and people who have lost loved ones. I was really nervous because I do a bit about how you will never forget the day you are told you are going to die… I know it doesn’t read funny here, you have to see the whole bit. I was debating on dropping that bit for the show. I didn’t know where these people were on their journey. I ended up doing it and it did great. But the best part, the meaningful part, was after the show at the meet and greet, people would walk up to me and say “I remember that day. May 3rd. 2007” “August 14th. 1998” “October 11, 2014. They gave me a year. I’m not even supposed to be here today!”
Q7: What are your favorite activities to relax?
Murray: My favorite activity to relax is probably surfing. It’s by far my favorite activity. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when there are double overhead waves and you are anything but relaxed, but for the most part being out on the ocean, watching dolphins swim under you and riding waves alone or with my friends not only relaxes me, but really balances out my head.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza/joke from you or others?
Murray: I do have some favorite lines I have written in the last 20 years, but I don’t know if I feel comfortable quoting myself here. A lot of my favorite lines from others, are just that, lines. One maybe two sentences in a song, a story or a movie that tells the audience there is something more here. I especially love it in comedies. I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines from the 1981 movie “Arthur” starring Dudley Moore. Moore, one of the greatest comedic actors of all time, plays a drunken billionaire who will lose all his money if he doesn’t marry a certain wealthy heiress. Ask anybody who has seen it and they will tell you it’s one of the funniest movies of the 80’s, if not of all time. But there’s this one line. Arthur is drunk at dinner with his arranged marriage fiancé and she asks him why he drinks so much and he says “Not everybody who drinks is a poet. Some of us drink because we’re NOT poets.” With that one line you go from laughing at a loveable drunk to really feeling for this extremely sad and lonely person.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Murray: I am really excited about my new music and comedy game show called “For What It’s Worth…” it started out as something to keep me occupied during the pandemic to one of my favorite projects I have ever worked on. The contestants are mostly comedians, but I have actors, musicians and writers on as well. I write fun trivia questions and music related games for the contestants to play. Again, I am very lucky to be friends with some of the funniest and most talented people out there. They all show up and bring their A game. I’ll be honest this show is really good, but the contestants I have on make it great.
From Murray’s Youtube:
with Greg Behrendt, Danielle Koenig & Paul Gilmartin
Go subscribe to podcast that feature Murray as I have throughout the years such as Road Stories and listen to comedians/writers tell stories from ummm…the road and travelling and it’s funny. Listen!
One of my favorite podcasts for several years has been Rock Solid hosted by Pat Francis and featuring musical guests and comedians. It is a quick spin of songs usually for a particular topic or musician. Throughout the years Pat has had co-hosts such as Murray, Mike Siegel of Travel Tales, April Richardson, Christy Stratton-Mann, Kyle Dodson, Jimmy Pardo, Mike Schmidt (not that Mike Schmidt…the 40 year old Boy for 40 straight years), David Gutierrez and many more.
So if you enjoy lists of songs by a theme with some great picks (usually Murray, Mike, April, guests) and some pretty good picks like the Cars (Christy), and usually something like Mike & the Mechanics, Def Leppard or whatever (Pat) maybe you love nu-metal (Kyle) this podcast is hilarious. In honor of this show here is a list below.
So here are my top 50 on my phone right now “Songs That Inspire a Sad/Anxious Poet to Write” No particular order, and oddly some are instrumental.
Bruce Springsteen : The River
Leonard Cohen : It Seems So Long Ago, Nancy
Bob Dylan: To Ramona
Simon & Garfunkel: The Sound of Silence
Philip Glass: Mad Rush
Harold Budd: The Room of Ancillary Dreams
Prince: The Beautiful Ones
Tupac Shakur: Changes
Nicole Atkins: A Dream Without Pain
Marissa Nadler: Said Goodbye to that Car
Gene Clark: Echoes
Townes Van Zandt: For the Sake of the Song
Tom Waits: Martha
Tom Waits: Ol’ 55
The National: Pink Rabbits
Brian Eno: The Big Ship
Brandi Carlile: The Story
Patti Smith: Kimberley
Amanda Shires: Bulletproof
The Band: Whispering Pines
Velvet Underground: Candy Says
Big Star: Thirteen
Elliott Smith: Christian Brothers
Bob Dylan: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
Leonard Cohen: Famous Blue Raincoat
Angel Olsen: Windows
Fleetwood Mac: Rhiannon
Pink Floyd: A Pillow of Winds
Joni Mitchell: Black Crow
Neil Young: The Needle and the Damage Done
Buffalo Springfield: Expecting to Fly
Amigo the Devil: Cocaine and Abel
Big Thief: Not
Bert Jansch: Needle of Death
Chris Cornell: Seasons
Alice In Chains: Heaven Beside You
Pearl Jam: The End
The Beatles: Across the Universe
John Lennon: Imagine
Marvin Gaye: Piece of Clay
Belle and Sebastian: Seeing Other People
Tim Buckley: Song to the Siren
Bauhaus: All We Ever Wanted was Everything
Leon Bridges: Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand
Valerie June: Stay
Bobbie Gentry: I Wouldn’t Be Surprised
Broken Social Scene: Cause=Time
Chris Bell: I Am the Cosmos
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Castles Made of Sand (there are thousands more but a top 50 is better to read than a top 1000)
The sea of pink was a major lift—
“You know,” I said, getting off the bus,
“I used to pace alone before I knew ya.”
Some people had been here before,
to push against the closing doors
and all the system tries to do to fool ya.
Democracy was moving too—
not a victory march, but not a crime.
In passing, even the Guard gave their thanks to ya.
Our group did our best, but it wasn’t much,
wedged away to the side by the baffled crowd,
but famous speakers always say the same things to ya.
So we sat and snacked, and thought of how
they broke our throne and didn’t care.
We swore our lips would be what overthrew ya.
Then next to us a circle formed,
much stronger than a marble arch,
and they were singing Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
We joined in, though we had no proof.
We were pilgrims who had seen no light.
It was cold, and not a time for “Hallelujah.”
Still, we sang the truth we could not touch.
Our hopes were high, love was on our tongues—
a strength below from broken “Hallelujah.”
Bio: Lorna Wood is a violinist and writer in Auburn, Alabama. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Quaranzine, Escape Wheel (great weather for MEDIA), Poetry South (Pushcart Prize nominee), Leaves of Loquat V (second prize, Loquat Literary Festival contest), Luminous Echoes (poems shortlisted for Into the Void's poetry contest), and ShufPoetry (New Pages review, 15 Dec. 2016), among others; and she was long-listed for the Erbacce Prize. Wood has also published fiction, creative nonfiction, and scholarly essays. Find her at amazon.com/author/lornawood.