You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

November 21: The Comic Creations of Harold Ramis

November 21, 2014
haroldramisComic actor, writer, and director Harold Ramis, whose best-known works include Caddyshack (1980), National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), Groundhog Day (1993) and Analyze This (1999), was born in Chicago on this date in 1944. His early work included substitute teaching, helping in a mental hospital, joke-writing for Playboy magazine, freelance journalism, and sketch-writing for Second City TV. He broke into screenwriting with Animal House and Meatballs (with his frequent collaborator Bill Murray); other screenwriting credits include Ghostbusters, Year One, and Bedazzled. Ramis once pitched the Disney Company with a film script about Emma Goldman (with Bette Midler ready to play the title role), but the project went nowhere despite his success as director of some of the highest-earning comedies of all time. “Ramis’ comedies were often wild, silly, and tilting toward anarchy, but they also were cerebral and iconoclastic, with the filmmaker heeding the Second City edict to work at the top of one’s intelligence. This combination of smart and gut-bustingly funny led a generation of comedic actors and filmmakers,” wrote Mark Carol in the Chicago Tribute after Ramis’ death this year from an auto-immune disease at age 69. To read about Ramis learning some Yiddish with Hershl Hartman, click here. To see him touting high-paying job opportunities for philosophers on SCTV, look below. “[S]ome people have a fear of rejecting all the security that comes with family, church, and state. They become fundamentalists. In a lot of ways, every child is a miniature fundamentalist. They need to believe in these things. It’s too terrifying otherwise. It takes maturity to embrace all that ambiguity. Once you’re alienated, you’re on your own.” —Harold Ramis