Whenever I think of Harold Ramis, who died Monday at age 69, his role in 2007’s “Knocked Up” springs to mind.
Playing father to Seth Rogen, a manchild who is about to become a dad with a woman he barely knows, the sardonic Ramis dispenses sage, genuinely warm wisdom. “This is a disaster,” Rogen says. “An earthquake is a disaster,” Ramis replies. “This is a good thing.”
The scene symbolizes Ramis’ place in modern comedy: He was its wise (yet sarcastic) father figure, mapping a blueprint to mainstream success through the films he wrote, directed and starred in.
When the stoner Rogen wonders how he’ll tell his kid not to do drugs without being a hypocrite, Ramis reminds Rogen that he, too, smoked pot while advising Rogen not to.
Ramis also had things both ways in his movies: They were broad and widely successful yet subtly subversive. His heroes were underdogs who rebelled against stuffy institutions (the country club elite in “Caddyshack”). The films were satirical (“Stripes”), weird (“Ghostbusters”) and philosophical (“Groundhog Day”).
“Stuff happens and you just gotta deal with it … that’s the beauty of it all,” Ramis tells Rogen in “Knocked Up.” That’s the Ramis I’ll always remember.