Whereas Murray was always front and center — and possessed of the schlubby charm to pull that off — Ramis came off as the smart kid in the back row cracking up everyone around him, but making sure the teacher never heard him. Which was pretty much me in a nutshell. In his two on-screen pairings with Murray — Stripes and the Ghostbusters films — Ramis was the more grounded counterpoint, still strange, but in a more studious, less anarchic way. Maybe it was the glasses, maybe it was because I thought he got the better looking girl in Stripes, but, even if deep down I wished I could be Winger or Venkman, I identified more with Russell and Egon.
Ramis passed away today after a long struggle with vasculitis, an autoimmune disease. His death came out of nowhere, and is clearly hitting a lot of people pretty hard, if the number of profile and cover pictures of Egon on Facebook are any indication. He’d faded somewhat from the spotlight, not appearing on-screen much anymore, and his last directorial effort was the disappointing Year One nearly five years ago. But hearing he was gone made me realize how big a part of my adolescence he and his work had been. And a little guilty that that’s what it took to come to that realization.
One of my favorite Ramis moments comes in the much-maligned Ghostbusters II. The newly reunited Ghostbusters fire up their proton packs, with Venkman and Ray singing “Do!” and “Re!” And, of course, Egon adds “Egon!” with a knowing smirk. The perfect smart-ass remark delivered in the perfect deadpan style, not the least bit oversold, and managing to be smart and dumb at the same time. High school me could only wish I was half that clever.