Comedy fans mourn the loss of Harold Ramis

The actor, writer, director and Second City vet was 69.


Harold Ramis, one of Hollywood's most successful comic filmmakers from the late 1970s through the late '90s, died early Monday morning after a long bout with a rare autoimmune disorder, according to his wife, Erica Mann Ramis. He was 69.

Ramis was a product of Chicago, and got his start with Chicago's Second City's Improvisational Theatre Troupe before moving to New York to help write and perform in The National Lampoon Show, a theatrical performance that also include other Second City grads like Gilda Radner, John Belushi and Bill Murray.

But his career in Hollywood switched to a totally different gear when he signed on to become co-writer of National Lampoon's Animal House (1978), sharing scriptwriting duties with NatLamp graduates Doug Kenney and Chris Miller. The film exploded during that summer, landing John Belushi on the cover of Newsweek magazine. And Ramis' was then off and running, co-scripting the summer camp classic Meatballs (1979) starring Bill Murray.

Ramis then went on to direct and co-writeCaddyshack (1980), another certifiable comedy classic that was also influenced by the National Lampoon style that changed the course of TV comedy along with the advent of Saturday Night Live.

Stripes (1981), another co-scripted production starring Bill Murray and directed by Ivan Reitman, was followed by National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) was a John Hughes script starring Chevy Chase that Reitman directed.

was a massive hit in the summer of 1984, which in addition to co-writing with Dan Aykroyd, Ramis co-starred as one of the four Ghostbusters (along with Aykroyd, Murray and Ernie Hudson).

One of his most acclaimed films came along nearly a decade later, Groundhog Day (1993), which he wrote and directed.

Chicago TV network WGN reports that Ramis’ serious health struggles began in May 2010 after he underwent surgery for diverticulitis. Since then he's suffered complications related to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels.

Unable to walk, Ramis spent four months that year at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., before continuing work at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. A year and a half later, Ramis had relearned to walk and was making good progress on his recovery when he suffered a relapse of the vasculitis, from which he never fully recovered.

Dan Aykroyd issued a statement Monday, saying he was "deeply saddened to hear of the passing of his "brilliant, gifted, funny friend."

"May he now get the answers he was always seeking," Aykroyd added.

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