On Monday we lost yet another great entertainer. Harold Ramis passed away at the age of 69 from issues relating to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. Ramis is a comedy legend who, like plenty of successful comedians, got his start at Second City, a comedic improv group that originated in Chicago. In honor of Harold Ramis, and the organization that jump started his incredible career, today I list my Top Five Films featuring Second City Comics.
5. Steve Carell
At Second City: 1991
Film Highlighted: The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
Good comedies usually have something other than just jokes going for them. Many have a heartfelt story intertwined with a hilarious concept, which makes them more than just a “laugh fest.” This Judd Apatow and Steve Carell collaboration does just that. Sure, Andy’s (Carell) “situation” is an outrageous and funny setup but what keeps the story with us after the movie is over is the fact that he is relatable. He’s eager, awkward, nerdy, and genuine all rolled into one shy electronics salesman. Plus he forms a real relationship with Trish (Catherine Keener) that isn’t simply used as a punchline or cheap shot.
4. Bonnie Hunt
At Second City: 1986
Film Highlighted: Return to Me (2000)
Bonnie Hunt wrote, directed, and co-starred in this sweet romantic comedy about a man who unknowingly falls for the woman who received his dead wife’s heart as a transplant. I know the scenario sounds a little ridiculous but Hunt actually made a pretty cute film. She plays Megan, the best friend of the protagonist, Grace (Minnie Driver). Megan brings Grace back to reality when necessary, like any good friend should, but also encourages her to dream big. Driver as Grace has a zest for life and just a hint of endearing nervousness. She’s the perfect match for David Duchovny’s disillusioned widower, Bob. She brings cheer and happiness back to his life and in return he gives her hope for a future.
3. Bill Murray
At Second City: 1973
Film Highlighted: Groundhog Day (1993)
Harold Ramis co-wrote and directed this hilarious film about what is perhaps the least popular holiday. Bill Murray plays the jaded weatherman, Phil, who is forced year after year to report on the festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania leading up to Groundhog Day. In a cruel trick of fate, Phil keeps reliving the day, experiencing the same interactions over and over. Bill Murray is as funny as ever, and Andie MacDowell is gorgeous as Phil’s producer/love interest, Rita. They seem an unlikely pair but as Phil is stuck in a seemingly endless loop, he eventually starts to appreciate the little things that he had previously ridiculed, and grows into a man worthy of Rita, while keeping his sharp sense of humor along the way.
2. John Belushi
At Second City: 1971
Film Highlighted: Animal House (1978)
I previously wrote about this film in my Top Five: Back to School post. It is my personal favorite comedy, and is another co-writing credit for Harold Ramis, which is why I’m breaking one of my rules and including it in a second list. Ramis was able to create something sweet and sentimental like Groundhog Day but he was also able to create comedy like that in Animal House; rude, over the top, and gut bustingly funny. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes good comedies have an underlying heart warming story. This one doesn’t, and it doesn’t need one. It works perfectly as a blatant in-your-face joke only because the talent on screen (and off) was so unbelievably good.
1. Harold Ramis
At Second City: 1969
Film Highlight: Ghostbusters (1984)
I’m sure no one is really surprised this is number one. It’s Harold Ramis’ most popular role and it’s a classic. In addition to starring alongside Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, Ramis also co-wrote the film. It also stars, my constant girl crush, Sigourney Weaver as another beautiful love interest for Bill Murray (why is it the funny guys always get the beautiful women?). It’s the story of a group of parapsychologists who, after they’re left unemployed from their university teaching positions, start a business specializing in removing unwanted ghosts (sounds, excellent, doesn’t it?). Ghostbusters is a great concept, paired with excellent and hysterical performances, all of which makes up one of the most influential comedic films in movie history. Thank you for that, Harold.