It is never a good feeling to check the headlines and see that a popular celebrity has passed away, but few have made me feel as legitimately sad as those reporting Harold Ramis’ death Monday.
Ramis died of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a disease that causes blood vessels to swell, at the age of 69.
Comedy films have always been a huge part of my life, and nobody has ever brought the quantity and quality of work Ramis did during his career as an actor, writer, director or producer.
During this academic year alone, my roommates and I have watched “Caddyshack,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Animal House,” “Stripes” and “Ghostbusters.” These are all movies Ramis helped create, along with others including “Groundhog Day” and “Ghostbusters II,” that I have loved for many years and have seen many times.
As far as comedies go, those movies mentioned above are among the cream of the crop. Each one had a huge influence from Ramis, no matter what his contributions were.
For evidence of Ramis’ instinct for comedy, look no further than the free range for improvisation that he allowed his longtime collaborator Bill Murray in Ramis’ directorial debut, “Caddyshack.” It has been said that nearly all of Murray’s lines as Carl Spackler were ad-libbed in the film, leading to some of the funniest and most memorable lines. This successful move led to director Ivan Reitman allowing Murray the same freedom in “Ghostbusters,” with equally successful results.
Ramis’ acting was also noteworthy. Though never the star actor, his dry comedy was a great complement to Murray in “Stripes” and to Murray and Dan Aykroyd in “Ghostbusters.” It is pretty much impossible to imagine “Ghostbusters” without the smart aleck remarks of Ramis’ character Egon Spengler.
When I look at my favorite eras of comedy, the 1980s probably stand at the top. So many of those hilarious films were made possible by the genius of Ramis, and I am really sad to see him go. I think everyone, both those in the film industry and those who just enjoy it like me, would agree the world has lost one of its funniest, most talented entertainers.
Correction: A prior version of this article credited Nick Roll as the author. In fact, the author is Ryan Cooper.