Top Ad unit 728 × 90

A Seth Pohorence Pop-Ed: Farewell to Harold Ramis


The world of comedy took a hit on Monday when Harold Ramis passed away. Any kid of the 1990s who loved Ghostbusters remembers Ramis as Egon Spengler, the brains of the quartet of the paranormal fighters. Yet, Harold Allen Ramis left a deep ripple on the great ocean of humor.

Growing up as the youngest of four kids, in a family where all we did was watch comedy, Harold Ramis was as identifiable as George Washington. My parents didn’t take us out to see too many movies once we moved to Rochester, New York, from Ohio, due to a lack of drive-in theaters. In fact, my parents only rented comedy films and animated Disney films while I grew up. Early on, I became acquainted with and a fan of Ramis, John Hughes and even Mel Brooks. If it was Saturday night, chances were my family rented a Bill Murray, Chevy Chase or Steve Martin film. All that did was turn me into a comedy elitist in the same vein as Jack Black’s character was to music in High Fidelity.

Looking back at Harold Ramis' career, it is so hard to find a significant failure for the man who knew how to write funny and get the most out of funny people, especially Murray. Let’s take a look back.

It is widely regarded that if you want to make it in big-time comedy and want to get high regard for writing comedy, The Second City is the way to get there. When you think about successful comedians from the 1970s and 1980s, chances are they were Second City writers or performers. When they created a TV show for Canadian television and NBC, Ramis was the show’s first head writer. While he wasn’t a featured player on the show, he had many appearances and fill-in characters on SCTV that launched so many careers.

Think about it for a minute. Before they were starring in big summer blockbusters, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy and others were working with Ramis on making a classic sketch comedy program. While he was working with SCTV, he was collaborating with Murray (then in the infancy of his career on Saturday Night Live) and was working with the crème de la crème of North American comedy.

When Ramis was ready to move on in 1978, he co-wrote one of the funniest films about college, Animal House. This classic was followed up by Ramis’ first film collaboration with Murray, Meatballs. While Ramis was only a co-writer of this film, it led to a great relationship with the funniest person alive, according to people like Bill Haverchuk, Sam Weir and Nate Schweiber. Meatballs was a big success for Murray since this was his first starring role in a film and boy was it the perfect vehicle for him.

Without Ramis helping pen two super successful films, chances are he would not have gotten a studio's support in him getting his directing debut in Caddyshack. This film, which he worked with Douglas Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray, was his dream project. Many regard it as the greatest sports film of all time. It was a breakout film for Rodney Dangerfield. It gave people a reason to still like Chase. It also helped introduce future generations to Ted Knight acting like a complete ass, a la Ted Baxter on Mary Tyler Moore.

More importantly, I though it was great that Ramis kind of regarded the final product of Caddyshack as a personal failure. Yes, the film did rack in a ton of money, but it is such a choppy film with a weak plot, only held together by small vignettes of the writers experiences as caddies growing up in the Midwest. Personally, the saving grace of the entire film is the comic relief found through Murray, who was improving lines as Carl Spackler. In fact, Murray was only supposed to have one line but hung around and Ramis fed off some great ideas his friend had. Also it helped ease the tension of the Chase-Murray feud that was occurring at the time.

Following up from his writing success and his directorial debut’s success, we started to see more of Ramis. In my personal favorite of his, Stripes, Ramis played Murray’s tag-along friend, Russell Ziskey, and wrote the film. Murray, being the supportive brother he always plays in comedies, really tried to help Ramis get more exposure by strengthening his acting in this film. In retrospect, Ramis is a good catalyst to help move the story along. We would see more strong performances by Ramis in Ghostbusters, where he and Murray do a great job playing off of this relationship.

I don’t want to say Harold’s career cooled off, but his work with the Ghostbusters films and directing National Lampoon’s Vacation are more mainstream in comedic tone than the raunchier raw comedy of his first successes. Even as a fan of his who regards Groundhog Day a “masterpiece,” I feel like it was a swan song that really lacked the original punch of his best work.

As we say goodbye to Harold Ramis, it seems more than apparent now that the reason he was probably pushing for a new Ghostbusters film was to remind people of how brilliant he was. Even his longtime cohort, Bill Murray, balked at any type of filmed reunion. You can’t blame Bill — he’s grown and expanded his range as an actor and comedian. Though I think that as time passes by we will always remember Harold Ramis as the man who gave us Bluto, Al Cervik, Tripper Harrison and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
A Seth Pohorence Pop-Ed: Farewell to Harold Ramis Reviewed by Seth Pohorence on 2/26/2014 Rating: 5

No comments:

© Popculturology. All rights reserved.

Contact Form

Name

Email *

Message *

Powered by Blogger.