In case you hadn’t already heard, Harold Ramis died yesterday at age 69.
If Ramis had stopped writing after Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, and Stripes — on all which he was a coscreenwriter — he would already have been a legend. But Ramis actually changed the shape of modern pop culture with Ghostbusters, cowritten with Dan Aykroyd, which I once suggested was “sardonic base upon which the entirety of Xer culture is built.” Ramis’s Groundhog Day, which he wrote and directed, might be the finest film comedy ever made, one that presents complex philosophical ideas about life and death in a package that is outrageously funny and deeply moving at the same time. He reversed the usual dictum that comedy is tragedy plus time: here, tragedy is comedy plus time. A lot of time. (Ramis himself had said that Phil Connors spends around 10 years stuck in his time loop.)
For everyone who never saw Ramis as part of the ensemble in the criminally underappreciated SCTV — a sort of Canadian mishmash of Saturday Night Live and Monty Python’s Flying Circus — here’s a taste:
Everybody stop dying for a while, willya?