Always the Quiet Ones – Remembering Harold Ramis

Harold Ramis, 1944-2014 (image source: Retroist)

Harold Ramis, 1944-2014

Yesterday the world of comedy and film lost one of its greatest and most beloved figures – actor, writer and director Harold Ramis. Ramis’s work had a profound effect on so many, and we here at Deadshirt decided to get together to share our feelings about the man and his body of work.

Harold Ramis’ death feels like a part of me is missing and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. I was raised on Ghostbusters; it’s not only my favorite movie, it’s where I got my sense of humor, my love of the fantastic. Ghostbusters is, on some level, why I left a steady, well paying job and moved to New York City a year ago with my best friend. Not only is Ramis’ performance as Dr. Egon Spengler iconic and hilarious (how incredible is it that Ramis plays him as the total opposite of a stock mad scientist, this subtle strain of weirdo that flat out didn’t exist before Ghostbusters?), the script he and Aykroyd put together is the perfect blend of slobs vs snobs comedy, science fiction, horror, and adventure with a real, truly humanist bent. Ghostbusters is not just a perfect film, it’s THE perfect film in my eyes.

I owe so much to Harold Ramis. Ghostbusters is the first movie that made me truly love movies and I think that’s true for many of us. Without the guiding influence of Ramis’ sharp wit, I don’t know who I’d be today but I’d certainly be less interesting. It’s strange to think that a total stranger can have that much impact on your life but it’s true. Bill Murray’s appropriately brief comment on Ramis’ passing was that “he earned his keep on this planet” and damn if that isn’t true. Thank you for everything, Harold.

– Max Robinson

My father had odd ideas about what constituted appropriate entertainment for an 8 year-old child. Well, actually, he just didn’t care and figured that whatever he thought was entertaining would entertain my brother and I as well. Every Friday night my dad would pick up a bunch of videotape (we had a Betamax) rentals from a place in the city that we would keep and watch all weekend long. I still remember the night he brought home Stripes. Initially, my mom made me go into the kitchen during the naked mudwrestling scene, but by the time she woke up in the morning and saw that we had been marathoning it and that weekend’s other pick (Airplane II) all night, she just gave up. While I’d seen, and loved, movies written by Harold Ramis before, Stripes was my first exposure to him as an actor making it all the more delightful when he cemented himself in my mind as a cool dude in Ghostbusters two years later.

It’s funny – as a kid you never think that people actually make the movies you love, but looking back on the movies that were formative for my sense of humor, and myself in general Harold Ramis worked on almost more than any other single person. SCTV, Animal House, Caddyshack, Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Back To School. If you put together a Mount Rushmore of who had a profound effect of forming me as a human being his face would have to be up there right next to George Lucas. I’ll miss that someone who provided me so much is no longer here, if only because I never had the chance to thank him to his face. Thank you Harold Ramis, I hope you’re meeting my dad tonight so he can tell you about how much his kids loves Stripes back in 1982.

– Jason Urbanciz

When I was a teenager, attended a summer camp at County College of Morris called College for Kids & Teens. I took a class one television production, and it was the first hands-on exposure I had to filmmaking. One of our first assignments was to recreate a scene from Groundhog Day many of us probably know by heart: the first time Phil encounters Ned. It’s a simple scene, but recreating that scene gave me an appreciation for both the filmmaking process and Ramis’s witty-yet-somehow-grounded writing style. It was one of small yet crucial moments that put me on the path to where I am today. I already loved Groundhog Day, but since then seeing the movie always brings me back to us recreating that scene – me holding the script in hand, reading Ned’s lines and understanding that character just a little more.

Ramis’s work may be the perfect example of “easy to imitate, impossible to duplicate.” There have been dozens – if not hundreds – of comedy films about college parties, road trips, time loops, and the paranormal. None have matched up to Animal House, Vacation, Groundhog Day, or Ghostbusters. Even SCTV has never been fully duplicated. The timelessness, endless quotability, and ultimately heartfelt films has brought countless people together. We Deadshirt staff members come from different backgrounds and we have known each other for varying times. But I like to imagine that if we all grew up together, we would have spent our recesses playing Ghostbusters. We miss you, Harold.

– David Lebovitz

It seems redundant to point out that Harold Ramis was the funniest Ghostbuster despite being the only straight man of the bunch.  Or that Caddyshack is one of the most joyous, raucous pure comedies since Chuck Jones’ heyday.  Instead I’ll try to share something a little more personal.  As a child I always admired the stoic characters on Star Trek, Data and Spock. These characters were explicitly non-human, even inhuman.  The first human in my media who prized explicit reasoning over emotional reasoning was Harold Ramis, as Egon Spengler.  But despite his awkwardness he could still crack a joke, or bust out a knowing smirk, and have a hobby (spores, molds, and fungus), even get the girl!  Ever since I realized why the character appealed to me so strongly I’ve always kept a bit of Egon in my personality.

-Patrick Stinson

I don’t think I thought too hard about the depth and breadth of Harold Ramis’s influence on my own sense of humor, and his work’s importance to the development of my most valued friendships, until I heard he died. Ramis co-wrote no fewer than four movies that provided the conversational shorthand for so many of my closest relationships. Put me and my best friend in a room together for long enough and Ghostbusters will come up in conversation, or be used as a context to explain something that happened to one of us yesterday. Watching Groundhog Day together on February 2nd is one of only a handful of annual traditions in my family, one we’ve continued even when we can’t be in the same state, or even the same country. These are films people bond over, because beneath the quick wit and occasional gross-out gag, they’re made with an authenticity of feeling.

Ramis’s comedic signature was the construction of an idea or character that could somehow be both broad and subtle at the same time – Ghostbusters had end-of-the-world stakes, but the much of the humor was built around the interactions between the everyday characters. Groundhog Day has a crazy fantasy premise, but the moments that shine brightest are the small character moments that are informed by the high concept, but not dependent on them. When I think about what kind of work I want to write, that quality is something I always aim for. Harold Ramis was – and will remain – an inspiration to filmgoers and aspiring creators everywhere.

– Dylan Roth

Harold Ramis had an impact on all of us, and if you have a story you want to tell or just need to let out your feelings, leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

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