Mike Remembers: Harold Ramis

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This one stings.

I texted a friend Tuesday about the death of comedy legend Harold Ramis, his response struck a chord: “One day all the greats will be gone, bums me out,” he said, and I couldn’t agree more. Harold Ramis really was one of the greats. Personally, I revered Ramis. So much of his work has spots on my favorites lists. Vacation, directed by Ramis, is a top five movie for me. Caddyshack, also directed by Ramis, is a comedy classic, and Ghostbusters, in which Ramis starred as Egon Spangler, was a huge part of my childhood.

To honor him, I want to share three of my favorite memories that wouldn’t be possible without Harold Ramis.

  • Ghostbusters has been a favorite movie of mine since I first saw it as a very young child. I had a friend who gave me her entire The Real Ghostbusters action figure set, including the firehouse play-set, and I watched the movie on a weekly basis. I enjoyed the movie as I got older and watched it with several friends who shared the same love for the movie. My favorite Ghostbusters memory, however, was when I saw the movie in 2011 when my local Showplace Cinema had a special showing in October. This was the first time my girlfriend and I saw a movie in theaters, and I couldn’t think of a better movie to watch. She had never seen the movie before, so it really became a sort of test. I honestly don’t think I could be with a woman who didn’t like Ghostbusters. During the movie, she laughed at all the appropriate parts, and today we are married.
  • I can point to three or four movies that made me love movies. Pulp Fiction, Star Wars and E.T. are important ones, but Vacation is highly influential to my comedy spirit, and it’s the gold standard for comedies as far as I’m concerned. I watched National Lampoon’s Vacation a few times as a kid, but the first time I remember really appreciating it was during high school. I spent the night at a friend’s house and we decided to watch the movie. When Clark wrecks the station wagon in the desert, Rusty says “I think I’ve got a nose bleed” after we just saw him with his finger knuckle deep into his nose. Audrey retorts, “I just got my period.” That level of humor was completely foreign to me before Vacation. It sounds like such a throwaway, pointless line, but as a high schooler, that line finally clicked. Or maybe my friend and I just had gross minds. We laughed all night about that joke, and it became my favorite comedy of all time.
  • My third Ramis memory has to do with Groundhog Day. Really, it’s not so much one memory I have, but a combination of all the Sunday afternoons I spent watching Groundhog Day. Even today, any time I watch Groundhog Day it takes me back to a simpler time. I love memories like that, and Groundhog Day has a special place in my heart.

Harold Ramis hasn’t done much in the last few years. The illness that eventually took his life made it difficult for him to work. While it breaks my heart that he left us too soon, I’m glad that he shared his talents with us when he did. My life would certainly be different without the comedy that Harold Ramis brought to my life. I’m a nobody.

I teach high school kids English, I contribute to a blog about movies, and I’m a co-host of a podcast; my influence doesn’t reach very far so clearly I’ve never met Harold Ramis, and I probably never even came close. I’m no authority on celebrity, but it says something about a man that when he’s gone he leaves the kind of impact that Harold Ramis left on me and certainly many more people.

Thank you Mr. Ramis.

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