NORWOOD PARK — It has all the makings of a sitcom: "Murrays meet Murray."
Northwest Side Irish Parade president Dan Murray and his daughter, parade organizer Elizabeth Murray-Belcaster, have always wanted one of the members of the Murray acting family as a special guest at their event.
After 11 years of trying, they finally succeeded as actor/director Joel Murray (no relation) will participate in this year's event.
"It's great," Dan Murray said. "I would say, he's a Brother Murray."
"I have a lot of fond memories of St. Patrick's Day in Chicago. Vague, but fond," joked Joel Murray, who's best known for his work in films "God Bless America" and "Monsters University" plus TV shows "Dharma and Greg" and "Mad Men."
"It's kind of cool that they recognize me as being an Irish-American from Chicago," added Joel Murray, a Wilmette native who honed his craft at The Second City and now lives in Los Angeles. "These are the High Holidays for my people. To be a part of this parade, which is as down home as you get, it's going to be pretty cool."
The parade begins at noon on Sunday at William J. Onahan School, 6634 W. Raven St., before making its way up Northwest Highway through the heart of Norwood Park.
Dan Murray said Joel is the biggest out-of-town guest in the history of the parade, which also has featured Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull, Hawks president and Edison Park native John McDonough, Bears great Otis Wilson and Gov. Pat Quinn.
"We’ve reached out a little bit farther than we thought we could," said Dan Murray, 78, a Garfield Park native who lived for 45 years in Norwood Park before moving to Niles. "It turns out people are a lot nicer than you think."
The parade has been hugely popular on the North and Northwest Sides, with tens of thousands spectators braving the cold last year. The first parade in 2004 was created in honor of Dan's late wife, Judith. The family resided within steps of the parade route's starting point.
"We say that our house was a parade of some sorts; we always had people in and out of the house and out the door all day long," said Murray-Belcaster, who now lives on the parade route with a balcony overlooking Northwest Highway.
Since the parade's origin, she and her family hoped to have an acting Murray — Bill, Brian, Joel or John — because they "were Chicagoans who had made something of themselves," Murray-Belcaster said.
"Plus, he has the same last name," she said, jokingly.
The Murrays found Joel on Facebook and asked his fee, to which he responded "two Guinnesses."
Joel Murray will co-emcee the event, ride in a convertible along the parade route and be honored at the official after-party at Immaculate Conception Recreation Center, 7211 W. Talcott Ave.
He's arriving in Chicago on Thursday, playing the "Shoot the Puck" game at Friday's Blackhawks game and having dinner with the parade's grand marshal — Colonel Adam L. Rocke, Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Army — on Saturday. Joel Murray returns to Chicago about three times a year, many times to see his son Gus, a Loyola University graduate who lives in Wrigleyville.
Joel Murray, 50, said this is his first time as a parade special guest.
"There's one weird dream sequence in 'God Bless America' where I think I'm John F. Kennedy, but that's the extent of my parade experience," he joked. "I've also cut across the [Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade] on Santa Monica Boulevard on my Vespa."
Dan Murray said about 80 groups will be marching in the parade, which will last about an hour. The best part, he said, is how the parade has "brought families together."
"I’m very happy how it turned out, and it’s done a lot of great things for the neighborhood," he said.
And now that a Murray has been scratched off the VIP list, Dan's next target is a rather famous Irish singer.
"Would love to get Bono," he said. "It wouldn't hurt."