Writer/director/actor Harold Ramis has passed away in Chicago at the age of 69. The Chicago Tribune reports he died “from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels.”
Ramis was directly responsible for some of the most iconic comedies of all time. He wrote Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Back to School, and Groundhog Day – and those are just the classics. He starred alongside Bill Murray in Ghostbusters and Stripes, had roles in Airheads, As Good As It Gets, and Knocked Up, and directed Caddyshack, Vacation, Groundhog Day, Multiplicity, Analyze This and Analyze That, four episodes of “The Office,” and more. Not too many people are deserving of the title “the voice of a generation,” but when it comes to 1980s comedy, Ramis stands alongside John Hughes as an undisputed comedic genius.
As a performer, he’ll likely be best remembered for his work as Dr. Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters, but I’m partial to his work in Stripes, an army comedy in which he and Bill Murray play a couple of slackers who enlist in the service but somehow still find a way to get into trouble. (I also appreciated his turn as an accidentally-drugged dean of admissions in the underrated 2002 film Orange County.)
As a director, I mean – wow. To have Caddyshack as your directorial debut is pretty incredible, and then to immediately follow that with National Lampoon’s Vacation? Talk about a one-two punch. Toss Groundhog Day in the mix, and I think Ramis has to be in the conversation when it comes to the best comedy directors of all time.
I’m 100% confident that the comedy world would not be what it is today without the influence of Harold Ramis. Rest in peace, sir. You will be greatly missed.
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