Ramis, the writer-director-actor who quietly and often off-screen created an unparalleled and hugely influential body of laughs, died Monday. He was 69. He suffered for several years from an autoimmune disease that caused inflammation and damage to his blood vessels, and died at his home in the Chicago suburbs, surrounded by family and friends. His death shocked a modern comedy world that Ramis helped build. His legacy as a father figure to generations of comedians was appropriately captured in Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up,” in which Ramis was cast as Seth Rogen’s father, he said, “because we all saw him as the dream dad.”
“Harold Ramis made almost every movie which made me want to become a comedy director,” Apatow said. “These films are the touchstones of our lives.” Chevy Chase, whom Ramis directed in “Caddyshack” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” called him “a great man who shunned unnecessary Hollywood-type publicity.”
“It was Harold who acted out and gave me the inspiration for the character of Clark Griswold,” Chase said Monday. “I was really copying Harold’s impression of Clark.”
Ramis joined The Second City in 1969, and in 1976 became head writer for the Canadian-based comedy show Second City Television, or “SCTV.”
His sprawling circle of Canuck cohorts during that seminal time included fellow comics John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, as well as musician Paul Shaffe.
Ramis is survived by his wife, Erica Ramis; sons Julian and Daniel; daughter Violet; and two grandchildren.