Today, comedy lost one of its most gifted and influential sons. You don’t hear the term “critically acclaimed comedy” too often, but those words were almost always associated with the late, great, Harold Ramis. Ramis provided screenplays for such monumental hits such as National Lampoon’s Animal House, both Ghostbusters films, and Caddyshack. Harold Ramis, also a renowned director, directed films such as Groundhog Day, Analyze This, and Club Paradise just to name a few. His most recent directorial effort being 2009’s Year One starring Jack Black and Michael Cera. Fans may also recall his forays into acting, including playing Dr. Egon Spengler in both of the Ghostbusters films and Russell Ziskey in the 1981 film Stripes. Without a doubt, Harold Ramis’ films paved way for many of the comedy films we enjoy today. He passed away on February 24th, 2014 at the age of 69.
Harold Ramis was born Chicago, Illinois on November 21st, 1944. In the early days of his career, he worked for Playboy Magazine as Joke Editor. He also was apart of Chicago’s Second City Improvisational comedy troupe. Soon after this, he began performing and writing for SCTV (which is pretty much the Canadian equivalent to Saturday Night Live). Ramis got his “big break” after writing the screenplay for National Lampoon’s Animal House alongside Doug Kenney and Chris Miller. As the 70s dissolved and the 80s rose, Ramis made his directorial debut with Caddyshack (in which he also wrote the screenplay with Doug Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray).
Harold Ramis’ wonderful filmography grew and grew with each film. Personally, my favorite film of his was his 1993 hit, Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is an achievement in writing and character development, and it effortlessly joins the ranks as one of my top 10 favorite movies. If you’re a writer trying to figure out just what the heck a true character ark is, then look no further. But what I liked most about it, and what I enjoy about Harold Ramis’ films, is that despite its idea it wasn’t complicated. The writing and concept was clear. Most comedy’s today don’t take risks or try to be smart but Harold Ramis not only took risks, he took careful steps. Not to mention how hysterical the writing was, and its nonchalant ability to dance between comedy and the more dramatic elements that come with the idea. No matter how grand or fantastical the idea was, it was grounded and comprehensible. It’s a concept that is really being lost in the big movies being released today.
As a comedian, actor, writer, and director, the legacy that Harold Ramis left for us will never deteriorate. There will always be aspiring Ghostbusters, toga parties, and first steps that might be a doozy. Comedy in Hollywood took a very heavy hit today, but we are lucky enough to have such wonderful pieces of filmmaking in circulation that is all thanks to Harold Ramis. His films will undoubtedly be enjoyed for countless years to come.
Montclair State | New Jersey