RIP Harold Ramis, who may have spawned more future comedy writers/directors/performers than anyone except “The Simpsons”

I won’t go too deep into the details of Harold Ramis’ life — this isn’t a hard news site by any stretch of the imagination, and the best obit you’ll find is here — but I will pull out one sequence from that obituary linked there which is notable:

Ramis’ comedies were often wild, silly and tilting toward anarchy, but they also were cerebral and iconoclastic, with the filmmaker heeding the Second City edict to work at the top of one’s intelligence. This combination of smart and gut-bustingly funny led a generation of comedic actors and filmmakers — including Judd Apatow (“The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” Jay Roach (“Meet the Parents,” the “Austin Powers” movies), Peter Farrelly (“There’s Something About Mary,” “Dumb and Dumber”), Jake Kasdan (“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” “Orange County,” both of which featured Ramis in small roles) and Adam Sandler (who starred in his own wacky golf comedy, “Happy Gilmore”) — to cite him as a key inspiration.

If you were to ask someone in their late 20s to mid 40s right now what their favorite comedies of all-time are, it would be nearly impossible to not hit at least one Ramis-associated movie, be it Caddyshack or Animal House or Groundhog Day or Ghostbusters. If you were to subsequently ask people in the same age bracket who work in comedy about why they got into comedy, I doubt you’d find a person who doesn’t name at least one Ramis movie. The only thing I can think that might have pushed more people of that age bracket towards comedy is The Simpsons, and Ramis’ work (being movies primarily, as opposed to TV) likely had greater reach.

Back in the day, my co-workers and I used to pound brews on Friday nights after work at this little ramshackle-shit dive bar on 35th and 1st in Manhattan. We’d get there around 5:30-6 and sometimes, we’d still be there at 11pm (those night were never pretty). Usually on those latter evenings, around 8:30-9 we’d be having some ridiculous pop culture discussion while watching something on ESPN overhead — a lot of these things were like “Is James Franco the next big star?” (no) and “Is Daniel Day-Lewis the greatest actor since WW2?” (probably not). One night we had a long discussion about what person, in popular culture, you’d most want to emulate the career of. One of the guys sitting around said Bill Murray, who’s probably more well-known than Ramis. When we got around to me, I said Ramis. He was involved on the creative side with literally some of the funniest movies of all-time, and yet — while he’s well-known, he’d never have to deal with the crush of fans that a Murray or an Akroyd might have to if they entered a bar/restaurant. So yes, at one point while semi-intoxicated a few years ago, I made a claim that Harold Ramis’ is the career I’d most like to emulate. I’ll never write anything close to Caddyshackso I have no chance of actually achieving this goal, but I still stand by it as a utopian idea. RIP, good sir. You made us laugh like almost no one else.

Ted Bauer