In what must be one of the most succinct one-sentence descriptions of a person's character in history, Harold Ramis said of Bill Murray, his longtime collaborator with whom he had a falling out during the making of Groundhog Day, "Bill will give you a kidney if you need it, but he won't necessarily return your phone call." This was, in part, the brilliance of Ramis, who died Monday at the age of 69. He understood that comedy wasn't just about writing jokes, but the inherent humor in the lives of everyday people.
|Harold Ramis as Russell Ziskey in Stripes.|
By the late '80s, the rated R comedy that Ramis virtually invented was all but dead, replaced with teen, coming of age films and rom-coms. But, as comedians and writers who were still teens themselves when Ramis's films were made began to reach their 20s and 30s, the genre had a resurgence. From the Farrelly brothers and Adam Sandler to Adam McKay and Judd Apatow, it could be argued that Ramis is responsible to a great degree for popular comedies like The Hangover, Forty Year Old Virgin, Old School, Wedding Crashers, There's Something About Mary and Happy Gilmore. Ramis's poking fun at the institutions of snooty privilege opened the door for future writers and directors to do the same and still be part of the Hollywood mainstream.
In a wonderful 2004 New Yorker profile of the writer/director/actor and his films, Tad Friend wrote, "Will Rogers would have made films like these, if Will Rogers had lived through Vietnam and Watergate and decided that the only logical course of action was getting wasted or getting laid or--better--both." The films he was describing were the Mount Rushmore of Harold Ramis movies and four of the most iconic comedic films of all time. They would help to define a generation of comedic filmmakers and set the bar for adult comedies moving forward. More »