Harold Ramis biography
SynopsisHarold Ramis, born in Chicago in 1944, has created or starred in some of the most successful comedies of all time, including Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Knocked Up, and many more.
Early CareerActor, writer, director, producer. Born on November 21, 1944, in Chicago, Illinois. Whether as an actor, writer, or director, Harold Ramis has been involved in some of the most beloved comedies of the 1970s and 1980s, including National Lampoon's Animal House (1978), Caddyshack (1980), and Ghostbusters (1984). He admired such comedians as the Marx Brothers, Sid Caesar, Ernie Kovacs, and Steve Allen while growing up in Chicago. A good student, Ramis selected as a National Merit Scholar while in high school.
Earning a degree in English literature, Ramis graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1967. After a string of jobs, including working as a substitute teacher, he landed a position at Playboy magazine as a jokes editor. Ramis eventually became an associate editor there before leaving to join the famous improvisational comedy troupe Second City in 1969.
While with Second City, Ramis became known for his sharp intellect and quick ad-libs. Other distinguished performers with the group around this time included John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Brian Doyle Murray. By the mid-1970s, he had joined Second City's television show, SCTV, as a writer and performer. Ramis worked with a number of other comic talents on the show, including John Candy and Eugene Levy.
One of his biggest breaks as a writer came in the late 1970s. Working with Chris Miller and Doug Kenney, Ramis co-wrote the screenplay for the hit college comedy N ational Lampoon's Animal House (1978), which starred John Belushi and was directed by John Landis. He then co-wrote one of the most popular comedies of the summer 1979—Meatballs. Bill Murray starred in this humorous look at a dysfunctional summer camp.
Ramis made his directorial debut with Caddyshack (1980). Starring veteran stand-up performer Rodney Dangerfield, this comedy pokes fun at a posh country club and its snooty members. Ramis also wrote the script for the film along with Doug Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray. Stepping in front of the camera, Ramis co-starred with Bill Murray in the military send-up Stripes (1981). He played Murray's best friend who joins the army with him.
Murray and Ramis went on to battle the supernatural with Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters (1984). In perhaps one of his best-known roles, Ramis played the super intellectual Dr. Egon Spengler in the film. Murray and Aykroyd played the two other scientists with whom he forms a company to remove unwanted ghosts from people's homes. Behind the scenes, Ramis worked with Aykroyd on the film's script. All three actors participated in the 1989 sequel.
Comedy CareerRamis continued to write or co-write a number of other comedic screenplays, including Back to School (1986) starring Rodney Dangerfield, Club Paradise (1986) starring Robin Williams, and Armed and Dangerous (1986) starring John Candy and Eugene Levy. Back to School did okay commercially, but both Club Paradise (which he also directed) and Armed and Dangerous were box office disappointments.
Maturing as a writer and director, Ramis created a more sophisticated comedy, Groundhog Day (1993). The film starred Bill Murray as a weather reporter sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the Groundhog Day festivities there and ends up forced to relive that day over and over again. Along for the ride is his producer (Andy McDowell) and his cameraman (Chris Elliott). While very humorous, the film also shows the transformation of Murray's character.
As a director, Ramis tackled more comedies in the late 1990s with mixed results. Both Stuart Saves His Family (1995) and Multiplicity (1996) were critical and commercial duds. With Analyze This (1999), Ramis helped create a smart comedy about a gangster (Robert De Niro) and his psychiatrist (Billy Crystal). He co-wrote the screenplay in addition to serving as the film's director and he took on these roles again for the film's 2002 sequel Analyze That.
Recent YearsMore recently, Ramis has continued to act, write, and direct for a variety of projects. He appeared as Seth Rogen's father in the comedy smash Knocked Up (2007) and had a small role in the musical biopic spoof Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) starring John C. Reilly. For the ancient world comedy Year One, Ramis served as the project's director and co-writer. He even has a small role in the film, which stars Jack Black and Michael Cera.
Ramis has been married to Erica Mann since 1989. The couple has two sons, Julian and Daniel. Ramis also has a daughter, Violet, from his first marriage to Anne Plotkin.