Let’s be honest, Hollywood has spent more time recreating movies from the 1970’s and 80’s than doing something new and original in the last ten years. Reboot has become part of our lexicon. Against this backdrop was Harold Ramis, who sadly passed away today. Today, we lost an original – a man that didn’t give us humor taken from his predecessors. Ramis broke new ground in terms of humor, and took us all on a comedic ride that lasted for decades.
Ramis provided me with some of the most funny movie moments of my life. Animal House, which he co-wrote, redefined coming of age movies. Stripes, which he co-starred in, was brilliant. Caddyshack is still considered an icon of comedy movies. Ghostbusters was the kind of movie that only could involve a genius like Ramis. Can you imagine pitching that movie to the Hollywood elite? Something so radical and brilliant, it is still fun to watch. Groundhog’s Day was another film that danced on that edge of funny and twists.
Harold Ramis wrote for National Lampoon and wrote and edited for Playboy. Writing is hard enough, writing comedy is the biggest challenge of all, yet Ramis seemed to make it look easy. He produced stories that were based on everyday things, and amplified them to the point of hilarity. Animal House was a class struggle, the snooty rich kids vs. the slobs. Caddyshack was about the kids that worked at the country club vs. the families that were members. Ramis had a knack for taking something very basic and simple that we all identified with, and making it outrageously fun to watch. In Ghostbusters he took a ridiculous concept and somehow made it perfectly palatable and believable.
He was more than just a talented writer, but he had fantastic comedic timing when he appeared on the screen. He had a nerdy quality on screen, tightly twisted with genius. You want proof of his lasting influence. When you read the line, “Don’t cross the streams…” you immediately picture him and that scene. That, my friends, is influence.
Harold Ramis was a genius, plain and simple; be it on or off the screen. We are all less for his departure.