Monday, February 24, 2014

Harold Ramis, 1944-2014

“One of my favorite Bill Murray stories is one about when he went to Bali. I’d spent three weeks there, mostly in the south, where the tourists are. But Bill rode a motorcycle into the interior until the sun went down and got totally lost. He goes into a village store, where they are very surprised to see an American tourist, and starts talking to them in English, going ‘Wow! Nice hat! Hey, gimme that hat!’ ” Ramis’s eyes were lighting up. “And he took the guy’s hat and started imitating people, entertaining. Word gets around this hamlet that there’s some crazy guy at the grocery, and he ended up doing a dumb show with the whole village sitting around laughing as he grabbed the women and tickled the kids. No worry about getting back to a hotel, no need for language, just his presence, and his charisma, and his courage. When you meet the hero, you sure know it.” 

He smiled. “Bill loves to get lost, to throw the map out the window and drive till you have no idea where you are, just to experience something new.” And you? “Oh, I’d be the one with the map. I’m the map guy. I’m the one saying to Bill, ‘You know, we should get back now. They’re going to be looking for us.’” 

-- from Tad Friend's quite fine profile of Harold Ramis from 2004 in The New Yorker

I confess that I never considered Groundhog Day to be the masterpiece a lot of people did. That doesn't matter: Ramis, who directed and co-wrote that 1993 film, is a major influence on comedy. And not just in film: His smart/silly/sincere style can be felt in the early years of The Simpsons and Conan O'Brien's Late Night stint. And as an actor, he was one hell of a great wise-ass nerd. Rest in peace, Egon Spengler.