Friday, January 12, 2007

The Most Underrated Comedian in History: Harold Ramis 12.22.99

Saturday Night Live and SCTV notwithstanding, the biggest impact of the so-called “next generation” of the world famous improvisational theater, The Second City was on the big screen. Known to but a few as the smart Ghostbuster and Bill Murray’s buddy in Stripes, the largely unheralded Ramis is the lynchpin of a generation’s worth of brilliantly sophomoric comedy masterpieces.

Animal House. Meatballs. Caddyshack Stripes. Vacation. Ghostbusters.

Animal House (1978)
Actors: John Belushi
Writers: Harold Ramis, Doug Kenney and Chris Miller
Director: John Landis

“Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”

Animal House marked the first filmic association with the Second City Players for director John Landis, who had previously worked with The Zucker Brothers’ Madison, Wisconsin-based Kentucky Fried Theater to create the hilarious sketch anthology Kentucky Fried Movie. Co-writers Doug Kenney and Chris Miller hailed from the National Lampoon magazine where they hired Harold Ramis and John Belushi for The National Lampoon Radio Hour.

Meatballs (1979)
Actors: Bill Murray
Writer: Harold Ramis, Len Blum, Dan Goldberg, Janis Allen
Director: Ivan Reitman

“Attention. Here's an update on tonight's dinner. It was veal. I repeat, veal. The winner of tonight's mystery meat contest is Jeffrey Corbin who guessed ‘some kind of beef’.”

Director Ivan Reitman began working with Second Citizens as a budding filmmaker in Canada where he cast Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin in his 1971 horror-spoof Cannibal Girls. Reitman brought in his longtime producing partners Dan Goldberg and Len Blum to punch up the script with Harold Ramis.

Caddyshack (1980)
Actors: Bill Murray, Ann Ryerson, Brian Doyle-Murray
Writers: Brian Doyle-Murray, Harold Ramis & Doug Kenney
Director: Harold Ramis

“I got to get into this dude's pelt and crawl around for a few days. Who's the gopher's ally. His friends. The harmless squirrel and the friendly rabbit.”

Caddyshack marked Ramis’ directorial debut from a script by he wrote with fellow Second City and National Lampoon writer/performer Brian Doyle-Murray with old Lampoon buddy Doug Kenney on assist. It’s only natural that Bill Murray would be in the cast.

Stripes (1981)
Actors: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas,
Writer: Harold Ramis, Len Blum, Dan Goldberg
Director: Ivan Reitman

“My philosophy: a hundred-dollar shine on a three-dollar pair of boots.”

Ivan Reitman brought in Harold Ramis to punch up the Meatballs puncher-uppers’ script about two boners who enlist in the Army to meet girls. Half of SCTV appears in the movie.

Vacation (1983)
Actors: Brian Doyle-Murray, Miriam Flynn, Eugene Levy, John Candy, Harold Ramis
Writer: John Hughes
Director: Harold Ramis

“Sorry folks, park's closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya.”

Ramis’ sophomore effort as a director is this classic tale of a summer trip gone horribly wrong. Former National Lampoon writer John Hughes penned the original script that launched the trilogy of Griswold family’s calamitous vacation movies. Hughes, a Chicago native himself, would of course move on to become The John Hughes and continue to cast Second City actors.

Ghostbusters (1984)
Actors: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis
Writers: Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis
Director: Ivan Reitman

“Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”

Dan Aykroyd’s encyclopedic knowledge of all things paranormal certainly helped in scribing this epic sci- fi comedy about untold evil, other dimensions and getting slimed. Reitman re-teams with Ramis and a cast of Second City-trained comics to bring this outrageous spectacle to the screen.

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