In a tragic blow to the comedy world, and everyone who loves it, brilliant comedian Harold Ramis was found dead in his home at the age of 69. Ramis is survived by his wife, three children and two grandchildren. Not to mention the hundreds of millions of fans around the world – and dozens of close friends – who will miss his creative genius.
Ramis was one of those rare bright lights in the entertainment community, who was universally loved, universally respected and universally humble about the entire affair. From his enthusiastic beginnings as a comedian/writer in the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, through his iconic comedies of the 80s and 90s, Ramis remained who he always was; a brilliant man with an excellent sense of humor and no pretensions that he was anything else.
Ramis wrote, or cowrote, the scripts for a string of comedy classics, some of which he also acted in. Starting with his slapstick comedy about college dorm life “National Lampoon’s Animal House” followed of course by his poke in the eye of the 1 percenters “Caddyshack,” the military spoof “Stripes,” the hilarious paranormal romp “Ghostbusters,” an interesting look at psychology and metaphysics – or religion, depending on who is speaking – “Groundhog Day” and the movie which allowed Robert DeNiro to show his comedy chops “Analyze This.” Ramis was a firm believer in trying to insert larger issues and themes into his work. Longtime friend and ubiquitous costar Dan Aykroyd, when he learned of the untimely death at 69 of the brilliant comedian Harold Ramis, said that he hopes his friend will get the answers he has always been seeking.
Ramis seem to enjoy casting himself as the “straight man” when he acted in his movies. Almost always a doctor of some sort, or at least the teacher, he instinctively knew how important a supporting role was. His was not the face or voice of a leading man, but it was virtually impossible for makeup to hide his intellect. Ramis always played the guy who studied hard, and knew more than everyone else around him. In Hollywood, they call that “typecasting.” Ramis was indeed very often the smartest person in the room, no matter what room he happened to be in.
Of course, not every movie Ramis wrote or directed was a box office smash. Is 2009 offering “Year One,” while not a bad movie in and of itself, and despite the star power and comedic talents of Jack Black in the lead, fared rather poorly insofar as money is concerned. According to Ramis, he was attempting to track the psycho-social development of civilization, through the eyes of the caveman. Imagine trying to pitch that concept, to the studio executives.
Ramis will also be remembered for his unstinting willingness to give, where younger comedians were concerned. He influenced such stars as Steve Carell, Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan and Seth Rogen. All of whom remember him as a kind, warm, genuine human being, with a gift for making people laugh.
Harold Ramis: Writer, director, humanitarian, actor and brilliant comedian, found dead in his home at 69.
By Ben Gaul