As an actor, Harold Ramis was the wry, somewhat nebbishy sidekick, the guy dragged into adventures by his pal Bill Murray, or Ghostbuster Dr. Egon Spengler spouting scientific reasons not to do what they were about to do, or various detached, bemused doctors or professors, and he did all of those well.
But as a writer and filmmaker, his body of work also includes some of the most, well, to use an overused term, iconic comedies, including directing and co-writing one that has only grown in stature since its release, Groundhog Day:
And he directed and co-wrote the immortal Caddyshack:
Oh, right, there was National Lampoon’s Vacation, too:
And, yes, he wrote or co-wrote Ghostbusters, National Lampoon’s Animal House, Back to School, Meatballs, Stripes, and Analyze This, and, as an actor, he was Moe Green and Swami Bananananda on the original syndicated Toronto-based Second City TV (later SCTV), on which he was also head writer. He was part of The National Lampoon Radio Hour and was even a member of the pioneering video news and satire group TVTV, and if you want to see one of the key antecedents of The Daily Show, go find some of that stuff. His IMDB page is like a listing of some of the most influential comedies of the last few decades. And influence he did, with many comic filmmakers citing him as a major influence, including Judd Apatow (who cast him in Knocked Up), the Farrelly Brothers, and others.
Harold Ramis passed away early this morning from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis at 69 years old. He leaves us with a body of work that includes some of the classics that those who read, and write and edit, this site consider in the pantheon of comedy. And he leaves us with the sage advice, “Don’t cross the streams.” (Unless you have to reverse the particle flow, that is….)