Chicago – Comedy legend, and Chicago’s own, Harold Ramis passed away early this morning at his suburban Chicago home. The writer, director, and actor died from complications from vasculitis, which causes inflammation and damage to blood vessels.

In May of 2010, Ramis underwent surgery for diverticulitis, which made him unable to walk. He spent four months at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota before continuing his rehab at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He is survived by his wife, Erica Ramis; sons Julian and Daniel; daughter, Violet, and two grandchildren.

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Comedy Legend

To say Harold Ramis is a comedy genius is an understatement. The movies he had his hands in are comedic masterpieces. From 1978 to about 1994, Ramis had his most notable work. Ramis’ movies during this time had a general theme of rebelling against the institutional lifestyles of America. Whether it was college, an uptight golf club, the military, or a mayor trying to keep a team of paranormal investigators down, Ramis’ characters always had an anti-hero aura surrounding them.

“You mean we’re not going to heaven? This is it? I can’t trust my parents or my teachers? The people who govern us are sadistic idiots?” – Harold Ramis

A few of Ramis’ masterpieces include: National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), Meatballs (1979), Caddyshack (1980), Stripes (1981), National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters 2 (1989), and Groundhog Day (1993).

Recently, Ramis played Seth Rogen’s father in Knocked Up (2007) in which their scenes were done as improv. In addition, Ramis directed four episodes of The Office (2006).

If you are wondering why Ramis didn’t act more often, it is because he always wanted to be in control. He felt actors didn’t have control over their lifestyle.

“For better or worse, there’s a certain amount of power that comes with being in control. It ties into why I’ve resisted acting. I realized that as an actor, you’re completely at the mercy of other people. You basically go begging for the opportunity to work. As a writer, at least nobody can tell me what to do. I can write what I want. I might not sell it, but at least I’m in control. And directing is the ultimate control position. If people offer me decent roles in good films, of course I’ll take it. But I just didn’t like the actor lifestyle. You end up focusing all your energy on trying to get parts you don’t even want. What does that do to your self-esteem in the long run? As much as I liked acting for its playfulness and the reward of hearing big laughs wash over you on a stage, I always felt I should do something that I could control.” – Harold Ramis as told to Believer Magazine

Sweet Home Chicago

Harold Ramis grew up on the west side of Chicago and Rogers Park, and he graduated from Senn High School, which is located in the Edgewater community on the north side of Chicago. After college, Ramis returned to Chicago and was a substitute teacher at the Robert Taylor Homes projects. Furthermore, he was a freelance writer for the Chicago Daily News, and soon after was the joke editor for Playboy magazine.

Second City

Second City is improv-based sketch comedy based out of Chicago, and this is where a lot of well-known comedians get their start. Ramis started at Second City in 1969, and returned in 1972, he was also the head writer and performer for Second City Television (1976-1979). Second City is where Ramis would meet fellow comedic legends; Bill Murray, John Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd, the four of them would work on many future projects together. Ramis had this to say when discussing what he learned from Second City,

“I learned to fail, and learned that failure doesn’t kill ya. I refined a technique, and a stage persona that I later took to the big screen. I learned how to write, how to work in groups, and how to manage, how to direct, and it all became my life. All the transition through television into film, none of it was possible without Second City.”

It seems many actors who started their comedic careers in Chicago, will always have a soft spot for the windy city. Ramis feels the same way.

“There’s a pride in what I do that other people share because I’m local, which in L.A. is meaningless; no one’s local, It’s a good thing. I feel like I represent the city in a certain way.”

Affect on Hollywood

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The passing of Harold Ramis has hit hard with many of his fellow comedians. It seems no matter what age, Ramis had an affect on you. For me personally, he co-wrote one of my favorite movies of all time, Ghostbusters. If I was home sick from school when I was a youngster, or home sick from work as an adult, Ghostbusters was always the go to movie.

Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray, who co-starred in the Ghostbusters franchise with Ramis had this to say,

“Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend, co-writer/performer, and teacher Harold Ramis. May he now get the answers he was always seeking” – Dan Aykroyd

“He earned his keep on this planet. God bless him.” – Bill Murray

Many of Ramis’ colleagues took to twitter to talk about the legendary comedian

There is no doubt that Harold Ramis left his mark on the comedic world. His style of comedy would influence the likes of Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, and any one else who tried to make someone else laugh through film. Ramis did things his way, and it paid off in a big way. The characters that Ramis brought to life appeal generations of people and are still relevant today.

“My characters aren’t losers, they’re rebels. They win by their refusal to play by everyone else’s rules.” –Harold Ramis

Without Ramis, the comedic landscape would look vastly different than it does today, and not in a good way. Harold Ramis you will be greatly missed. May you forever rest in peace.

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Photo(s): Chicago Tribune, Mudwerks



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