Harold Ramis: We Saw Him First, Eh?


The first SCTV bit I ever remember seeing was also the first one I thought of when I learned of Harold Ramis’s death.

For a split second, I hesitated referencing his fake PSA “So You’re Dead, Now What?” on my blog, which isn’t like me.

My instinct to run with it proved sound:

Ed Driscoll thought of it too, and then I saw it cited elsewhere, without a single “too soon!” complaint in the comments.

That’s rather startling, given our hypersensitive, easily offended, concern-trolling society.

Then again, maybe it isn’t.

To his credit, Harold Ramis’s daunting creative output contributed not a jot nor a tittle to the spread of the toxic, politically correct culture that metastasized during his lifetime.

For that alone, he deserves all the praise he’s been receiving this week.

“This one hurts,” someone tweeted about Ramis’s death.

It was a sentiment echoed around the web.

Those of us who grew up watching Harold Ramis on SCTV — before the show was a glint in America’s eye — surely feel particularly pained by his passing.

As a teen, I just assumed Ramis was Canadian, or at the very least, a draft dodger.

(Which he was, but that’s not what he was doing up here.)

SCTV, like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, was one of those TV shows that made my crappy adolescence worth living.

My Catholic school friends and I conversed easily in SCTV catchphrases; my husband and I still do.

There are situations, even (make that “especially”) serious ones, when yelling “Sell 40 shares!” or “I’m the guy with the snake on his face” strikes us as the most apt initial reaction, conveying more meaning in fewer words than anything we can think up ourselves.

Americans reached for Chris Farley references to describe Rob Ford, but my fellow Gen-X Torontonians were more inclined to recall John Candy as Mayor Tommy Shanks.

While not quite as unbreachable as Navaho, SCTV lingo could serve as a crude Canadians-only code in a pinch, perhaps during some admittedly unlikely Pueblo-type incident.

During his single-season on-screen SCTV stint which isn’t included on any of the official DVD collections, alasHarold Ramis didn’t do broad physical comedy, like Candy.

He didn’t do impressions, like Rick Moranis or the other cast members.

He rarely altered his appearance to play some zany Melonville resident.

Early on, Ramis established the persona that later made him far more famous on the big screen:

The mischievous, know-it-all geek with the slight, snotty smirk and occasional raised eyebrow.

He’d be insufferable, the kind of guy you usually want to punch on sight, except he gives off that “nerds have all the best drugs/know all about sex” vibe.

So you give him a chance, then quickly wonder how your gang ever got along without him.

Now we’ll have to do just that.