I was a little bit in love with Egon Spengler.
He was nice, and he was funny. He had a professorial look that prefigured today’s hipster uniform. He was the smart one.
Playing Bill Murray’s sidekick in Ghostbusters and Stripes, he wasn’t the main focus. But he still got in some of the best lines.
Ramis understood his role in comedy. He says: “When I saw how far [John Belushi] was willing to go to get a laugh or to make a point on stage, the language he would use, how physical he was, throwing himself literally off the stage, taking big falls, strangling other actors, I thought: I’m never going to be this big. How could I ever get enough attention on a stage with guys like this?”
And so he decided: “I stopped being the zany. I let John be the zany. I learned that my thing was lobbing in great lines here and there, which would score big and keep me there on the stage.”
I related so much to his comic aesthetic, even as a kid. If you’re not the zany one, maybe you relate to this too.
I don’t know if I had any business watching Stripes as a kid but I did watch it. And it made me laugh out loud. And it made me love Harold Ramis. Watch him react to John Candy in this scene. He doesn’t say a word, and yet he is hilarious.
Harold Ramis went on to direct the perennial favorite Groundhog Day and also directed episodes of The Office. His body of work is completely interwoven into the comedy zeitgeist. He played a key role in forming my own sense of humor. I have mixed feelings about this because most of the shows I cut my funny bone on were rated a pre-PG-13 “PG.” They’re a little rough for kids today. I was so thrilled to show my kids Ghostbusters. But there’s a lot more sexual innuendo in that movie than I remembered. Does it matter? Should I let them watch these comedy classics anyway? As a parent, I’m torn. As a Harold Ramis devotee, I’m tempted to show them Animal House.
Harold Ramis had two sons of his own and two grandchildren. He died Monday at 12:53 a.m. from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, which he first contracted in 2010. He was 69 and by all accounts, a really nice guy.
Photo Source: Amazon