His long and fruitful association with Canada's Second City comedy troupe has led some to assume that Harold Ramis was Canadian; actually he hailed from the original "Second City," Chicago. After college, Ramis worked as editor of the Party Jokes page of Playboy magazine. He later performed with Chicago's Second City aggregation, and was a cast member of the Broadway revue National Lampoon's Lemmings, a major spawning ground of most of Saturday Night Live's cast. Ramis didn't join the SNL folks, but instead headed for Edmonton, where he was a writer/performer on the weekly Second City TV sketch comedy series. Like the rest of his talented co-stars, Ramis played a rich variety of roles on the series, the most prominent of which was TV station manager Moe Green (a character name swiped from the second Godfather movie); his other characters tended to be nerdy or officious types. Ramis' film activities have included screenwriting (National Lampoon's Animal House) and directing (1980s Caddyshack and 1984's Club Paradise). His best remembered screen appearance was as paranormal troubleshooter Egon Spengler in the two Ghostbusters flicks. Retaining close ties with his Second City compadres (on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border), Ramis directed the 1993 Bill Murray vehicle Groundhog Day and the 1995 Al Franken starrer Stuart Saves His Family. Though Groundhog Day was generally lauded as one of the most fresh and original comedies to come down the pipe in quite some time, Stuart Saves His Family didn't prove any where near as successful despite some generally positive critical nods. To be fair, audiences had certainly had their fill of SNL spinoff movies by this point and the movie did have a somewhat hard time balancing its drama with comedy, but with well written characters and a smart script many eventually succumbed to its charm when the film was released on home video shortly thereafter.
Where Stuart Saves His Family had scored with critics and bombed with the masses, Ramis' next film, the Michael Keaton comedy Multiplicity, did almost the exact opposite. Generally regarded as only a mediocre effort by the press, audiences seemed to enjoy the idea of multiple Keatons and the film performed fairly well at the box office. It seemed that Ramis was a director in need of balancing critical and mass reception, and with his next film he seemed to do just that. An inventive comedy that paired Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal as a troubled mob boss and his tentative psychiatrist respectively, Analyze This seemed to get a fair shake from just about everybody. As one of DeNiro's first straight comedies, audiences had a cathartic blast watching him gleefully deconstruct the hardened, fearsome persona he had been perfecting since the early days of his career. Ramis next stepped behind the camera for Bedazzled - a remake of the beloved Dudley Moore/Peter Cooke comedy classic. Unfortunately the film proved to be one of the director's biggest failures to date. Opting next to stick with more familiar, but again not altogether original ground, Ramis headed up the sequel to Analyze This - amusingly titled Analyze That - in 2002. Though it may not have been the most necessary sequel in the history of film, fans were generally pleased and the film proved a moderate success.
Sure all of Ramis' work as a director left little time for other endeavors, but the busy filmmaker somehow found time to serve as a producer on many of his own projects (in addition to such non-Ramis directed films as The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest) as well as step in front of the camera for such efforts as As Good As It Gets (1997), Orange County (2002), Knocked Up (2007), Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007), and Year One (2009), which he also wrote and directed. Ramis died at age 69 in 2014.