“Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.” – Groundhog Day
Many of us remember the first time we saw Ghostbusters. I remember sitting on the couch in my parents’ living room at six years old and seeing what would ultimately become my favorite film of all-time. I was too young at the time to get all the subtle humor woven into the film’s dialog, but since I wanted to watch this movie over and over again, I had plenty of chances to catch on.
While most people gravitated to the sarcastic, yet suave, attitude of Dr. Peter Venkman (masterfully played by Bill Murray), I always wanted to be Dr. Egon Spengler. He was the quiet one, but he was always thinking. He was easily the smartest guy in the room, but it was his subtlety that often goes unnoticed by most. That dry wit is what appealed to me when I finally started catching onto the real meat of the film: the dialog. Most of the time it was so subtle it could go right by you, but there were moments, even in the vastly under-appreciated Ghostbusters II when Egon stole the show. I might have been the only one in the room laughing, but I was just fine with it. That Harold Ramis smile was very reassuring.
Harold Ramis made a career off of that kind of humor. It took working with great comedic actors like John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Dan Akroyd and countless others to make the parts truly come alive, but his writing and direction is what made them work so well. Caddyshack and Stripes are two of the most quotable films ever made thanks to his perfectly-timed wit and expert direction. And let’s not forget the immortal classic that is National Lampoon’s Vacation.
For me, though, Ramis’ biggest contributions to our cinematic lexicon are Egon Spengler and what might be his finest hour (and a-half, give or take): Groundhog Day. Through Egon and Ghostubsters, Ramis helped teach me what comedy was about. Then, he redefined it for me when he wrote and directed Groundhog Day. But it was more than just the comedy and the supreme delivery of Bill Murray that made Groundhog Day important to me. It was about living.
Everyone takes a different meaning from that film, but for me it was about living each day for the purpose of finding what’s really important to you. It shows us that you could spend an eternity accomplishing wonders and turning yourself into someone to be admired or even worshiped, but until you find something worth living for it’s all for naught. It shows us that, you may spend a long time searching for that meaning, but when you find it your life will take a great leap forward.
Harold Ramis taught me that while making me laugh ‘til I cried. And I cried again on February 24, 2014 when I, along with a legion of other fans, had to say goodbye. There aren’t enough words to say what Ramis meant to so many the world over. But he will live on forever as each new generation discovers his work and comes to love and admire him as we have.
At this very moment, somewhere in the world, there’s a kid watching Ghostbusters for the very first time and he or she is wondering where they can get their hands on a copy of Tobin’s Spirit Guide or thinking that collecting spores, molds and fungus actually sounds like a fun hobby now. And still somewhere else, there’s a grown man sitting at a desk who’s about to begin his journey to find something to live for again…thanks Harold.