Matt McMahon | Monday, February 24, 2014
Harold Ramis, famous actor, writer and director, died on Feb. 24 at age 69 after losing his battle with a debilitating autoimmune disease.
I was lucky enough to have parents who allowed me to watch somewhat raunchy movies at a young age. In fact, sometimes my parents would even entice my sister and me to watch these films. We were children and therefore thought anything our parents would champion for us to take part in, even — or maybe especially — pop culture-wise, should be avoided. So, against our woefully ignorant judgment, our parents had to force us to watch “Ghostbusters” as a family. Now, every year on their respective holidays, to this day, we have the tradition of digging out “Groundhog Day” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
Harold Ramis, director of “Caddyshack,” was the center of a comedic movement, surrounded by other talented, likeminded actors, writers and directors. He was the comedic brain behind many influential and popular films — films that have maintained their lasting power over multiple decades.
Beginning with his work on Second City TV and the script of critical classic “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” Ramis cultivated a brand of oddball comedy that was rather zany, but still appealed to the masses. What other gross-out movie gag is as universally enjoyed and cited as the candy bar in the pool incident from “Caddyshack”?
Ramis’s movies were undeniably weird, but it was that weirdness he celebrated and found emotion in, making his work so widely accepted. He married his writing to the likes of John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Rick Moranis. As much as their acting elevated his material, his writing and direction helped form what became each of their signature styles.
The distinguished writer and director’s impact was so prominent that his groundbreaking work is now commonplace. Harold Ramis crafted his own influential class of humor from groundwork laid by predecessors such as Mel Brooks. He ably combined this humor with underlying depth; a style used by many filmmakers today, especially Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen.
Ramis’s influence on mainstream, commercially appealing comedy can be traced to everything from the “American Pie” series, to Adam Sandler’s and the Farrelly Brother’s older classics, to Comedy Central’s most recent successes “Workaholics” and “Broad City.” While he appeared quite understated both on and off the screen, there is no doubt Harold Ramis’s legacy on comedies will extend far into the future.
Thankfully, my parents were as stubborn in getting me to watch Ramis’s movies growing up as I was about not wanting to conform to their tastes. It speaks to the genius of the filmmaker that multiple generations can find laughter and satisfaction from the wacky aspects of his movies. This overarching blanket of recognition is hard to attain due to diverging comedic preferences, but Ramis consistently found a sweet spot. I look forward to sharing his work with my own children, as I know his movies will continue to provide definite comedy common ground.