A few years ago, one of the classic Second City casts was going to reunite for a one-night-only performance. I asked a few of them about doing an article about the reunion, but a couple of them were reluctant. Harold Ramis was not one of them. I asked whether he thought there was a fear of failure after being off-stage for so long, but he assured me that wasn’t the case, at least with him. “I’ve failed way too many times,” he told me with a laugh. “I’m failed on a national level. I’ve failed on a worldwide level!”
We both laughed that day. I thought about reassuring him of his many successes, but I knew it wasn’t necessary. He already knew about them, and besides, the failures were funnier.
The list of Harold Ramis’s professional successes is long and well-known. It’s worth noting, however, what an all-around great guy he was personally; if he could do anything for you, he would.
I certainly did not know him well, although our paths crossed a few times. I interviewed him for STARLOG magazine (when he directed Multiplicity–one of his lesser efforts). He helped me when I was writing The Funniest One in the Room (my Del Close biography).
He was in the midst of his publicity tour, promoting Analyze This!, when he got word that his director and friend Del Close was dying. He immediately flew back to Chicago and attended the now-famous “living wake” for Del the night before Del passed away. A very classy guy.
And at the Second City 50th Anniversary in 2009, he gladly posed for a photo with my Ghostbusters-loving son.
I didn’t know he was ill, but I was very happy to hear that Bill Murray had been by to visit. The two of them had been estranged for many years, but it’s nice to know that they managed to put it aside when it counted the most.
And it should also be noted that Harold was a Chicago guy (admittedly, by way of the North Shore). But when he became successful, he didn’t pack up and move to L.A. Instead, he kept an office and a home in Chicago.
This is a huge loss to comedy, to Chicago, and to everyone that was ever lucky enough to know him. Rest in peace, Harold.
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