Harold Ramis: Dan Aykroyd, Comic Professionals and Filmmakers React

Harold Ramis

The films of Harold Ramis defined comedy for a generation of viewers and future creators, of which this writer was a part. A contemporary of mine (contributing writer Michael Brown) perhaps put it best, saying that he had reached out to his mother, telling her that this must be how she felt when one of the Beatles died.

The comedian, actor, writer and director was responsible for '80s classics like GhostbustersStripes and Groundhog Day and was still active, most notably as one of the driving forces (with Dan Aykroyd) behind the plans to make Ghostbusters 3. His passing has sparked a social media outpouring of sorrow and sentiment, along with dozens of shared videos from his films and the occasional "I just saw Harold Ramis--who am I gonna call?" jokes...which we'd like to think he'd enjoy, even as inappropriate as they are.

Veteran comics creator Dan Jurgens just informed me that the immaculate Bushwood Counrty Club, the golf course where Caddyshack was set, has lowered all of its flags to half-mast.

Here are some of the responses of the comics community, filmmakers and those who knew or worked with Ramis, collected from social media and via direct e-mail requests. We'll be updating this story throughout the day.

Erik Burnham, writer of IDW Publishing's Ghosbusters

It's not possible to overstate Harold Ramis' contributions to comedy.

He's one of a handful of writers who helped shape my voice, and not just by way of his work on Ghostbusters. I don't think I can thank him enough for that.

His work as a writer looms large, but then he directed -- and performed in -- some of everyone's favorite comedies. Some of the BEST comedies. From Second City on. He'll be missed, and he was gone too soon - but his work is immortal.

Dan Goldman, creator, Red Light Properties

Harold Ramis’ work was a obviously big influence on me (the mentioned but never seen Tobin’s Spirit Guide from GHOSTBUSTERS gave my RED LIGHT PROPERTIES protagonist his surname), but Ramis' twisting of reality into stories with  humor and heart and action were some of the great films of our time. Hollywood lost a great director today... and I’ve lost a hero.

Ross Richie, Boom Studios CEO

So sorry to see the passing of Harold Ramis, but shocked to see it due to the autoimmune disease vaculitis, the same extremely rare disease that claimed my father in 1998. My heart goes out to everyone out there today struggling with an autoimmune disease -- and the emotional and psychological pain that comes from living with your body fighting itself.

Joshua Elder, Founder and president, Reading With Pictures, and writer of Scribblenauts Unmasked

I met Harold Ramis once - in the Old Orchard mall in Skokie of all places. I was 24 and working at a Barnes & Noble at the time. Told him that he was inspiration for me in my creative endeavors (and that Egon was my favorite Ghostbuster). We ended up talking for several minutes about film school and Hollywood and comedy. No reason for him to take time out of his day to talk to some random kid on the street, but he did it anyway.

There are few who have such talent. Few who have such grace. Fewer still who have both.

RIP, Egon.

Troy Brownfield, writer, Zenescope Entertainment and Sparkshooter

Harold Ramis should be remembered as the very definition of the triple threat. The guy could act, the guy could direct, and he could sure as hell write. If you're in my age bracket, say 30-45 (I'm 40), then consider the foundation of the comedies that defined your younger years. Did you think of Caddyshack? Stripes? Animal House? Ghostbusters? Back to School? Meatballs? He wrote, or co-wrote, every single one. Groundhog Day? Wrote and directed. Vacation? He directed that. The guy knew comedy from so many angles that H.P. Lovecraft would have to use non-Euclidean geometry to figure out the OTHER angles of funny that other humans can't access, but Ramis could. Now think about his performances. Dr. Egon Spengler alone is brilliant . . . just a genius, genius character. But add in Stripes, or Knocked Up, or any of the other times that he popped up on screen and you were happy to see him because you knew that whatever he did would be gold. This is a real loss to comedies and film. I feel for his family and his extensive network of friends, all of whom I'm sure are deeply saddened. His films may not have stopped wars or cured disease, but they made us happy and remain compulsively rewatchable decades on. Rest in Peace, Harold Ramis. You made us laugh like nobody else. See you on the other side, Dr. Spengler.

Adam P. Knave, co-creator, Artful Daggers and Amelia Cole

Ramis shaped so much of my concept of what comedy is and what it can be. He never forgot that all humor truly sings with the human element in place, and that laughing at the absurdity we find in ourselves is a way to celebrate our own humanity. His heroes were ordinary people who never stopped trying, and were willing to learn. His villains cast toward the close-minded. He spent decades making us laugh and quietly teaching us about what it means to be human and be funny and why the two are often the same thing.

I saw Ghostbusters in the theatre and have never stopped watching it since. Same with Groundhog Day. Ramis understood humanity, and he understood humor and best of all he was willing to teach the rest of us in the most entertaining ways possible.

J.M. DeMatteis, writer of comics and TV, including Justice League 3000

I loved Ghostbusters — that’s a movie that shares DNA with the work Keith Giffen and I have done over the years; a balance of absolute seriousness and absolute silliness — but the Ramis work that I cherish about all others is Groundhog Day.  An old friend of mine once called it “The It’s a Wonderful Life of the Baby Boom generation” and I think that’s accurate. GH is story of real spiritual wisdom, real depth and emotion, yet played with such incredible lightness that it never weighs you down while it’s lifting you up.  One of my favorite movies of all time — and one that gets better with every viewing.  When you add in Ramis’s other films, plus his Second City work (both on stage and on television), he leaves behind quite a legacy.  My heartfelt condolences to his friends and family.

Dan Aykroyd, frequent Ramis collaborator, most notably on Ghostbusters

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.

Bill Murray, frequent Ramis collaborator, notably on Ghosbusters and Stripes

Harold Ramis and I together did the National Lampoon Show off Broadway, MeatballsStripesCaddyshackGhostbusters and Groundhog Day. He earned his keep on this planet. God bless him.

Dan Slott, writer, The Amazing Spider-Man and Superior Spider-Man

Sad to hear Harold Ramis passed away. Without him there would be no Animal House, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and many of my favorite movies.

This is the greatest last line in any movie ever made. Period. And knowing THAT is the mark of a brilliant director. Get a chance, watch the Caddyshack making of feature. Ramis talks about one of the jokes they had to cut. Laughing just thinking about it.

Erik Larsen, creator, Savage Dragon

The screwed up thing is that everybody dies. People you hate, people you love, people you know, people you don't know--all--eventually--die. Harold Ramis was an amazing talent--a gifted writer, actor and comedian. We don't want guys like Harold Ramis to die. We like them. We want them around. They make life worth living. And it's sad to hear of somebody like that going away. It's terrible. It's tragic. But it happened and it's going to happen again and again. It's never going to stop happening. The best we can do is enjoy guys like that when they're around, treasure what they gave to us, miss them when they're gone, and hope others like them will come into our lives. I love Harold Ramis. Love his movies. Enjoyed the hell out of all of them. It saddens me that there won't be any more--but it pleases me that he gave us so much. Harold Ramis will be missed--and Harold Ramis will be remembered. He was one of the good ones.

And can we finally stop pushing for another Ghostbusters movie? Because without Harold Ramis...what's the point?

Tom Brazelton, creator of Theater Hopper and Midwestern Nice

I'm having a hard time articulating exactly what losing Ramis means to me. As a performer, he's probably not the first guy to come to mind in terms of comedies, but the man's influence was huge. Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Strips, Ghostbusters, Back to School... Who hasn't quoted one of his lines at one point or another?

Ramis was like an expert puppeteer to me. He didn't get the glory like performers like Bill Murray did and I kind of like to think he preferred it that way. You could tell from his writing that he possessed great intellect, but harbored no shame laughing at a well-crafted dick joke. That's why I think his death is hitting people especially hard. His was the kind of wit people wish they had - smart, approachable, and inclusive.

Justin Gray, writer, All-Star Western

Generationally speaking there are certain comedians and comedic writers/directors who manage to capture the essence of our culture so masterfully that they actually shape our memories of that time. The body of work that Harold Ramis helped bring into to the world is astounding. He merits accolades on multiple levels. Certainly his writing was hysterical and tapped into not only was was funny but also what was socially relevant. He was part of a three person writing team that produce Animal House and like Star Wars it inspired countless other films. His directing, comedic timing and skillful collaboration with Bill Murray helped skyrocket the already wonderfully talented Murray to a leading man and household name. Groundhog Day is my personal favorite of his films but many people would say there are three or four more that are even better and there's no arguing that. His characters were adorable. They were quirky, often overly intellectualized and yet his flat sarcastic delivery of one liners always stood out to me as comedic gold. He had a few stumbles here and there but look at his resume. Most of us could only dream of having that many successes.

Todd Dezago, creator, The Perhapanauts

I first had fun with Harold in Stripes and wondered where the heck this guy came from.

Then, being so totally immersed in everything Ghostbusters when it came out, I could very easily see how he and Dan were such a perfect fit together, how they were so one the same page and realizing such a fantastic premise! 30 years later and I'm still chuckling during each scene--and I know that script by heart!

Ken Marcus, writer, Super Human Resources

As far as I’m concerned, Harold Ramis wrote the two funniest movies ever put to film. Caddyshack and Animal House. I challenge anybody to disprove that assumption, under threat of certain fisticuffs. And that’s not even counting Groundhog Day, Stripes, Meatballs and of course, Ghostbusters. He is, without a doubt, our finest comedic genius of a generation. And like most geniuses, only fully appreciated when they’ve left us. RIP Dr. Spengler.

Steve Orlando, writer, Undertow

Putting aside the fact that even at a young age I realized Egon Spengler was by far the coolest Ghostbuster, it only takes a quick look back to the films I remember from when I was young to see just how good Harold Ramis was. If you pressed me, I couldn't remember many films I loved as a child, but Caddyshack, Groundhog Day-- they stuck to me decades later. They're part of my vernacular, my way of speaking, not just my memory. That's more than a film, it's a formative moment.

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Fred Van Lente, writer, Archer & Armstrong

Groundhog Day is an underrated absurdist classic, and one of the best films of the 90s. Even if Harold Ramis had provided us with nothing else, he would have been justly remembered as one of the greats. It's sad to learn of his passing but it's happy to be reminded we were able to spend some of the same time on Earth with this uniquely talented individual.