Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Harold Ramis

This is a shock--Harold Ramis has died.  He was one of the biggest names in comedy over the past forty years.  Starting in the 70s and continuing, I suppose, up to today, the whole SNL-Second City-National Lampoon axis has been central in American comedy, and Ramis was one of the best of the group.

As a young man in Chicago he performed at Second City and also was the joke editor of Playboy.  He then got caught up in the National Lampoon orbit, writing and performing on their radio hour and working in their stage show.  Next he started writing and starring in the Second City TV show.

Around this time National Lampoon was planning to branch out into movies, so they chose Ramis to join writers Doug Kenney and Chris Miller to write a script.  They came up with National Lampoon's Animal House, a gigantic hit that changed the face of comedy.

Hollywood opened up to everyone associated with the film, and Ramis went on to write, direct and/or star in more than his share of hits:  Caddyshack, Stripes, National Lampoon's Vacation, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day, to name a few.

I think he was a decent actor and a pretty good director, though his greatest talent (as far as I could tell) was as a writer.  In any case, he made his mark as few have.

I saw him a number of years ago at the Academy's building. He talked about his career.  He was quite self-deprecating, but that, I think, was the mark of a man who knew that his accomplishments spoke for themselves.  Which they will continue to do.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know he was on Second City's early TV show but I can't say I remember his bits all that well- but I saw Plainclothes Mountie on a tribute yesterday (required Canadian content?) and it was fairly good

4:03 AM, February 25, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember his on the first season of SCTV, that had such a cheap budget it looked like public access. He was Moe Green, the station manager who hosted Dialing For Dollars, where almost no wonder was offered and even then would ask impossibly hard questions and start sweating if any viewer might get it right. He was a Swami who'd wrap his (fake) legs around himself. He came back in later years doing a Godfather sort of bit as Crazy Legs Hirschman, Chairman of the Board.

8:20 AM, February 25, 2014  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

He was an integral part of the early SCTY shows. I wish I could find those on DVD (Amazon only carries the later seasons - I don't understand why you can't by the original seasons anywhere).

One of my favorite Ramis bits - Officer Friendly on a "kid's educational TV show," set in a police station. At the end he asks the boys and girls to write down the names of their friends who do bad things and send it to the station. he also had a series of commercials for stupid products, like "Do it yourself dentistry". Funny stuff.

I've read he was secretly ill the last 4 or 5 years, so that probably puts the lie to all those rumors that a Ghostbusters 3 was in the works.

8:41 AM, February 25, 2014  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Or confirms that it was slow going.

11:20 AM, February 25, 2014  

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