Harold Ramis passed away today at the age of 69. The actor, director and writer had an immeasurable impact on modern comedy, but he was perhaps best known to audiences as Dr. Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters. In addition to being a well-known comedian, Ramis influenced comedy behind-the-scenes. He was the director of now legendary comedies like Caddyshack and Groundhog Day and wrote the scripts for films such as Ghostbusters and Meatballs. Contemporary comedy heavyweights such as Judd Apatow have cited him as a major comedy influence and Ramis even appeared in a cameo as Seth Rogen‘s father in Knocked Up.
Harold Allen Ramis was born on November 21, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois. His parents were shopkeepers and Ramis was attracted to comedy from an early age and started writing parody plays in college. After a brief stint working in a mental institution in St. Louis, Ramis returned to Chicago where he started writing and performing comedy–most notably with Second City. When he briefly left Second City, his replacement was a young comic actor named John Belushi. Upon his return to the troupe, Ramis re-invented himself as a deadpan foil to Belushi’s boisterous style of comedy.
Ramis eventually became involved in such famed comedy productions as The National Lampoon Radio Hour and SCTV. The success of these two productions led to Ramis being asked to write the script for National Lampoon’s Animal House, which in turn led to Ramis’s work on the films Meatballs and Caddyshack. Ramis’s biggest claim to fame, however, came when he veered away from the frat house comedy scene and when he co-wrote and co-starred in Ghostbusters.
Ramis continued to work until very recently on various film productions. In addition to his own productions, he had a cameo in Knocked Up as Seth Rogen’s father and directed several episodes of The Office.
He is survived by his wife, Erica Mann, and his three children. His legacy will be influencing generations of comedians and being remembered as someone who brought joy and laughter to people’s lives.
[Photo Credit: Orion Pictures/Warner Bros./Getty Images]