Fried Obituary: Harold Ramis (1944-2014)

"I looked at the trap, Ray!" - Ramis' iconic role as Egon in Ghostbusters

Today brings one of the worst losses to the film industry in quite some time. It's hard to really say anything funny or witty about the passing of this guy, given that it feels like a lot of laughter has been abruptly excised from the world in his passing. Harold Ramis, one of the most influential figures in the comedy genre within the past 30-40 years, has passed away today.

It's a sad truth that many may simply remember Harold Ramis as "the nerd from Ghostbusters," as his influence on the film industry is larger than one might suspect. Not only that, but he's responsible for some of the most slyly funny and inventive movies to grace the silver screen, not to mention contributing varied performances to several different projects throughout the years. In fact, I suspect that many wouldn't even notice his involvement in more than one or two things. But believe it or not, Ramis was a man of many talents. Many, many more than just acting like a socially awkward ghost hunter.

For starters, look at his directing career. Sure, there are the classics, like the landmark Caddyshack, or the hilarious National Lampoon's Vacation, or the inventive little hit Groundhog Day. But what about the clever, witty romps Analyze This and Analyze That, which wove the yarn of a neurotic mobster and his beleaguered psychiatrist? Or my personal favorite, the understated comedic noir, The Ice Harvest, which cast Billy-Bob Thornton and John Cusack into the roles of a pornographer and mob lawyer who rip off their boss, and are pitted against each other in the process? Sure, some of Ramis' movies weren't the best, such as the unfunny caveman flick Year One, or the much-maligned Club Paradise. And yet, the good outweighs the bad, and what we're left with is a filmography that is both varied and full of fantastic achievements.

Ramis promoting his underrated little gem, The Ice Harvest.
That's not even mentioning his excellent performances in several, several movies over multiple decades. Starting as a regular in the cult favorite SC-TV, Ramis balanced out his directing career with several roles, varying in size, over the years. Of course, we all remember him as Egon, but he also contributed a nice role as Seth Rogan's father in Judd Apatow's massive hit, Knocked Up, not to mention roles in the critical darling As Good As It Gets, and in the frankly underrated Airheads. While his repetoire as an actor may not match his work behind the camera, it's important that we remember him for more than his most popular role, because doing so does such a talented man a great injustice.

But why is this important? Why is it so important that we lost Ramis today? Well, if you look at comedies made before Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Vacation, and Animal House (of which he contributed to the script,) quite frankly... a good portion of them don't hold up today. With the exception of Mel Brooks films, a lot of comedies made before this time period feel dated, and the laughter is derived more from appreciation of when it was made as opposed to genuine amusement. But Ramis' films changed all that. With Caddyshack, Vacation and Animal House, he brought "slob comedy" to the forefront, a sub-genre which Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, and many others owe their entire careers to. Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day showed theatergoers that elements of paranormal and sci-fi cinema could be successfully married to comedy, producing both laughter and thrills. In his own way, Ramis changed the face of comedy, and gave us films that still hold up today, barely feeling a day older than when they were released.

A world without Harold Ramis is a sad one indeed. Still working on the pipe dream project, Ghostbusters 3, up until his death, he was still determined to entertain audiences up until the very end. A very talented individual in several fields, Ramis has left us a legacy of work that will live on for decades after his passing. Not only that, but it will keep our children, and probably our children's children, laughing for untold amounts of time. 

And that's probably the way he would've wanted it.


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