I wonder if he knew. Harold Ramis passed away yesterday and the internet tom toms are ablaze with tributes and an outpouring of love from his many fans. I wonder if he realized how beloved he was and how much his work meant to so many people. Our paths never crossed. I never met him. But the sense I get is that he didn’t.
Other names garnered way more attention. John Hughes. Judd Apatow. The Ferrelly Brothers. But in his quiet, unassuming way Harold Ramis was a giant who contributed to some of the finest screen comedy of the last half-century. From MEATBALLS to ANIMAL HOUSE to GHOSTBUSTERS to STRIPES to CADDYSHACK to one of the great romcoms of all-time, GROUNDHOG DAY – Ramis either co-wrote, directed, and acted in all of them. Wow. Even just one of those credits would be enough to lift someone up to the top of the comedy pantheon.
I always loved Harold Ramis comedies. He had this amazing ability to mix broad outlandish comedy with real emotional moments. No matter how absurd and extreme his scenarios could be, there was always an underlying layer of humanity. The goal was to make you laugh, not shock you. He was never mean-spirited.
His comedies were always smart, even when they were silly. And you got the sense he had great affection for his characters – all of his characters – even the gopher.
Screenwriters and directors of today’s screen comedies could take a lesson from Harold Ramis. When I compare them, the current crop don’t have the inspired lunacy, underlying themes, and playfulness of Ramis' fare. He had been sick for several years. I wondered what had happened to him. I’d see one of these current forced slapdash formula comedies and hope he’d someday make his return.
There was no one like him. And it’s our great loss. When you want a classic new comedy, now who are you gonna call…?
RIP Harold Ramis. If they remake GHOSTBUSTERS (and there is talk of that), I hope you'll play one of the ghosts.