Date of Birth 21 November 1944, Chicago, Illinois, USA Birth Name Harold Allen Ramis Height 6' 2" (1.88 m) Harold Allen Ramis is an American actor, director, and writer, specializing in comedy. His best-known film acting roles are as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters (1984) and Russell Ziskey in Stripes (1981); Ramis also co-wrote both films. As a writer/director, his films include the comedies Caddyshack (1980), Groundhog Day (1993), and Analyze This (1999). Ramis was the original head writer of the TV series SCTV (in which he also performed), and one of three writers to pen the screenplay for the film National Lampoon's Animal House (1978). Ramis was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Ruth (née Cokee) and Nathan Ramis, shopkeepers who owned the store Ace Food & Liquor Mart on the city's far North Side. He had a Jewish upbringing, although in his adult life he does not practice any organized religion. He graduated from Nicolas Senn High School in Chicago, and, in 1966, from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was as a member of the Alpha Xi chapter of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. Afterward, Ramis worked in a mental institution in St. Louis for seven months. He later said his time working there“ ...prepared me well for when I went out to Hollywood to work with actors. People laugh when I say that, but it was actually very good training. And not just with actors; it was good training for just living in the world. It's knowing how to deal with people who might be reacting in a way that's connected to anxiety or grief or fear or rage. As a director, you’re dealing with that constantly with actors. But if I were a businessman, I’d probably be applying those same principles to that line of work. ” He had begun writing parodic plays in college, saying years later, "In my heart, I felt I was a combination of Groucho and Harpo [Marx], of Groucho using his wit as a weapon against the upper classes, and of Harpo’s antic charm and the fact that he was oddly sexy — he grabs women, pulls their skirts off, and gets away with it". Avoiding the Vietnam War military draft by ingestion of methamphetamine to fail his draft physical, he married San Francisco, California artist Anne Plotkin, with whom he would have a daughter, Violet, and eventually, years later, divorce. Following his work in St. Louis, Ramis returned to Chicago, where by 1968, he was a substitute teacher at the inner-city Robert Taylor Homes. He also became associated with the guerrilla television collective TVTV, headed by his college friend Michael Shamberg, and wrote freelance for the Chicago Daily News. "Michael Shamberg right out of college had stated freelancing for newspapers and got on as a stringer for a local paper, and I thought, 'Well, if Michael can do that, I can do that'. I wrote a spec piece and submitted it to the Chicago Daily News, the Arts & Leisure section, and they started giving me assignments [for] entertainment features. Additionally, he had begun studying and performing with Chicago's Second City improvisational comedy troupe. Ramis' newspaper writing led to his becoming joke editor at Playboy [magazine]. "I called a guy named Michael Lawrence just cold and said I had written several pieces freelance and did they have any openings. And they happened to have their entry-level job, party jokes editor, open. He liked my stuff and he gave me a stack of jokes that readers had sent in and asked me to rewrite them. I had been in Second City in the workshops already and Michael Shamberg and I had written comedy shows in college". After leaving Second City for a time and returning in 1972, having been replaced in the main cast by John Belushi, Ramis worked his way back as Belushi's deadpan foil. In 1974, Belushi brought Ramis and other Second City performers, including Ramis' frequent future collaborator, Bill Murray, to New York City to work together on the radio program The National Lampoon Radio Hour (which ran November 1973 to December 1974). During this time, Ramis, Belushi, Murray, Joe Flaherty, Christopher Guest, and Gilda Radner starred in the revue The National Lampoon Show, the successor to National Lampoon's Lemmings. Later, Ramis became a performer on, and head writer of, the late-night sketch-comedy television series SCTV during its first three years (1976-1979). Characterizations by Ramis on SCTV include corrupt Dialing for Dollars host Moe Green, amiable cop Officer Friendly, exercise guru Swami Banananda, board chairman Allan "Crazy Legs" Hirschman, and home dentist Mort Finkel. His celebrity impressions on SCTV include Kenneth Clark and Leonard Nimoy. Ramis left SCTV to pursue a film career, writing, with National Lampoon magazine's Douglas Kenney, the script for what would become National Lampoon's Animal House; they were later joined by a third writer, Chris Miller. The 1978 film followed the struggle between a rowdy college fraternity house and the college dean. Its humor was raunchy for its time. Animal House "broke all box-office records for comedies" and earned $141 million. Ramis next wrote the comedy Meatballs, starring Bill Murray. The movie was a commercial success and became the first of six film collaborations between Murray and Ramis. His third film and his directorial debut was Caddyshack, which he wrote with Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray. The film starred Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray. Like Ramis' previous two films, Caddyshack was also a commercial success. Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler. In 1982, Ramis was attached to direct the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. The film was to star John Belushi and Richard Pryor, but the project was aborted. In 1984, Ramis collaborated with Dan Aykroyd on the screenplay for Ghostbusters, which became one of the biggest hits of the summer, in which he also starred as Dr. Egon Spengler, a role he reprised for the 1989 sequel, Ghostbusters II (which he also co-wrote with Aykroyd) and 2011 will return for the third film as Dr. Spengler. His later film, Groundhog Day, has been called "Ramis's masterpiece”. His films were noted for attacking "the smugness of institutional life ... with an impish good [will] that is unmistakably American".They are also noted for "Ramis's signature tongue-in-cheek pep talks”. Sloppiness and improv are also important aspects of his work. Ramis frequently depicts the qualities of "anger, curiosity, laziness, and woolly idealism" in "a hyper-articulate voice". In 2004, he turned down the opportunity to direct the Bernie Mac-Ashton Kutcher film Guess Who, then under the working title "The Dinner Party", because he considered it to be poorly written. That same year, Ramis began filming the low-budget The Ice Harvest, "his first attempt to make a comic film noir". Ramis spent six weeks trying to get the film greenlit because he had difficulty reaching an agreement about stars John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton's salaries. The film received a mixed reaction. His typical directing fee, as of 2004, is $5 million. Ramis has three children. His daughter Violet was born in 1977 with his first wife, Anne, and sons Julian Arthur (born May 10, 1990) and Daniel Hayes (born August 10, 1994), with his wife, Erica Mann. Actor Bill Murray is Violet Ramis' godfather. In 2004, Ramis was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Ramis's films have had an impact on subsequent generations of comedians and comedy writers. Filmmakers Jay Roach, Jake Kasdan, Adam Sandler, and Peter and Bobby Farrelly have cited his films as amongst their favorites.