Harold Ramis

He cowrote and starred in my favorite stupid movie of all time, “Stripes.”

No “Private Benjamin,” the stars of “Stripes” were never co-opted, always maintained their humor and outsider perspective, and won in the end.

In other words, the nerds inherited the earth.

That’s what comedians once were. Before they all got sitcoms and made millions. They were outcasts, class clowns, with mediocre grades and a small group of friends, and they never got the girl. Which is why it’s so great that Bill Murray and Harold Ramis hang out with the hottest in “Stripes.”

But the reason I like “Stripes” so much is this:

Stripes Breakup Scene

And just in case YouTube is blocked in your territory, here’s the relevant portion:

“Anita: You sleep until noon and then you watch ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ and then you drive your cab what a couple hours a day and then you come home and order out food and then you play those stupid Tito Puente albums until two in the morning.

Winger: Tito Puente is going to be dead and you’re going to say ‘I’ve been listening to him for years and I think he’s fabulous!'”

It’s hard to remember an era when you went back and listened to the catalog, when people boasted they were into an act before they were big.

Just like it’s hard to remember an era when movie comedies were smart and had nothing to do with comic books, and made the little girls smile and the young boys roll in the aisle with laughter.

It all started with “Animal House.” A gross-out comedy that bent the history of the medium ninety degrees, from which it never recovered.

This was the exponent of “Saturday Night Live.”

Which emanated from Second City and the “National Lampoon” and featured heroes not only known, but unknown, from John Belushi to Doug Kenney.

Yes, once upon a time being smart and irreverent was a job. Your goal wasn’t to be like everybody else, but to have those who got it come to you.

And at the nexus of all this was Harold Ramis.

Yes, Harold did time at “Second City.”

He wrote “Animal House” with the aforementioned Doug Kenney and Chris Miller.

But that’s not all, he cowrote “Caddyshack” and “Ghostbusters” and “Back To School” and “Groundhog Day”…seemingly all the movies you quote on a regular basis.

Furthermore, he directed “Caddyshack” and “Groundhog Day”!

You might know him as one of the Ghostbusters, but those jokes aren’t improvised, Ramis sat with his buddies and they cracked each other up and then they proceeded to crack us up.

So right now we’re subjected to endless reams of press about Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon, neither of whom is doing anything new. The last time there was innovation in late night was with David Letterman, thirty years ago, when he turned an interview format into a comedic one, featuring ever more bizarre stunts, and started a cult that propels him to this day.

And once upon a time, “Saturday Night Live” was dangerous. The cast were ringleaders, testing limits, embracing their hipness and their otherness, SNL cemented the vision of the sixties, the youth finally took over.

And now baby boomers are in control and are so self-congratulatory it makes me puke.

And the generations after them are so broke and so desperate they’re focused on money to the exclusion of art.

Who knew SNL was a stepping stone?

Who knew “Animal House” would be a groundbreaking paradigm shifter?

But that was the seventies, before the greedy eighties, when what was in your mind, how you lived your life, was important as opposed to how much money you made.

So, so long Harold Ramis. You’re a footnote in history but paramount in baby boomer brains. Your work will continue to live on, because everybody knows institutions are to poke fun at, and you were one of the best.

So long the modern movie business, wherein comedies can’t be made because they don’t play worldwide, if it’s not funny in Uzbekistan, the studio doesn’t want to make it. And if it’s all about getting a sponsor for an online production…sponsors don’t like edgy, never did.

And so long the music business. Wherein we used to have to listen and now we don’t. Your life can go on just fine being ignorant of not only Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, but Kanye and Jay Z too.

Everybody had to see “Animal House.”

Nobody has to hear today’s music.

Sure, they burned out the Lampoon formula.

Sure, “Bridesmaids” was a good movie.

Sure, Chris Rock is almost as edgy and insightful as Richard Pryor.

But so far, no one’s broken the mold. All we’ve seen is variations on the theme. It’s like we’re in an endless “Groundhog Day,” repeating ourselves ad infinitum until someone, hopefully you, stands apart and makes fun of the endless iterations of the same theme.

Like Harold Ramis.

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