Obama Honors Liberal Harold Ramis With 'Caddyshack' Nod

From Second City to "Stripes," Ramis' comedy was rooted in a countercultural tradition.

Actor and director Harold Ramis emcees an auction to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation on Feb. 26, 2004, at Harry Caray's Restaurant in Chicago.

Harold Ramis was an early supporter of President Barack Obama's political career. 

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President Barack Obama is just one of many mourning the loss of Harold Ramis, who wrote, directed and starred in a number of comedy classics including “Ghostbusters,” Caddyshack” and “Groundhog Day.”

The White House issued a statement Tuesday honoring Ramis, who died Monday at the age of 69 of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis.

Obama called Ramis “one of America’s greatest satirists,” a comic genius and praised his films that “questioned authority” and “identified with the outsider.” Obama also referenced a classic line from “Caddyshack.”

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As Obama’s former senior adviser David Axelrod pointed out on Twitter, Ramis was an early supporter of Obama’s political career.

But Ramis' connection to liberal politics extended far beyond that. He grew up in Chicago where he said he identified with the beatniks and “always felt countercultural,” he told the New York Observer in 2005.

“I had that kind of healthy righteous indignation and I had this big sense that history was a series of great injustices against the poor, the dispossessed and the disenfranchised," he said.

Ramis said in an interview with Believer magazine Second City – the comedy troupe he performed with in the late ‘60s – is often associated with the liberal idealism of Chicago's progressive politics, in part because of the work they did while he was there. 

“Our shows were much more overtly political than what Second City was known for,” he said.

 His films continued this strain of cultural subversion, be it mocking the institution of the American family (“National Lampoon”) or skewering the U.S. military (“Stripes”).

Even “Animal House,” his 1978 college romp, had a political subtext, Ramis said, as it was set in around 1963, on the eve of the social turmoil that shook the American youth later that decade.

“I thought the anarchy of ''Animal House' was really a precursor to the political anarchy that swept my generation in the later '60s,” he said in the Observer interview. “Even in those early, dumb comedies, for me, I invested them with meaning. Whether the audience ever saw it or got it, to me they were statement movies.”

Likewise, Ramis' last feature film, the 2009 biblical comedy “Year One” reflected the country’s political times, as he explained to New York magazine:

My natural instinct was to create an ending that had a Frank Capra populism to it. They win and the city gets saved by the goodness of the people – and by Jack and Michael. We tested that ending, and some of the audience said, "I thought Sodom was supposed to be destroyed." So we went out and shot an alternate ending where Sodom is destroyed by a meteor, and looked at that ending, and passed at that ending. It wasn't as successful as the populist ending. I thought, "Wow, bombing Sodom is the age of George Bush." Now we have Barack Obama, and the old ending, the one written by my natural instincts, is the Obama ending. It's the "Yes We Can" ending. In fact, Michael Cera's character has a line when the people are in revolt – you hear Michael yell, "Yes we can!"