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Harold Ramis, director of 'Caddyshack' and 'Groundhog Day' dead at 69

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Comedy fans are in mourning today as news has broken that comedy icon Harold Ramis has succumbed to health issues related to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, an extremely rare disease that the actor had suffered from since 2010. The auteur was 69.

Few people recognize Ramis' name when it's mentioned in conversation, and even fewer acknowledge his towering impact on modern comedy. He practically made Bill Murray possible, people. All those times in the seventies and eighties you were laughing at someone's bonehead antics, the odds are good that Harold Ramis had a hand in that mirth. Like his most famous characters, though, Ramis himself was quiet. He never sought stardom or acclaim. He was content to stand beside the funny person and then go home to his family at the end of the day.

Forever saddled as the man who played Egon in Ghostbusters, Ramis actually spent his career crafting some of the best, most lauded (and laugh-out loud funniest) comedies of the last four decades. Let's do the list. Obviously, most people will know him as the nerd from Ghostbusters, but Harold Ramis actually got his start as a writer (a vocation he never abandoned throughout his career). Between 1978 and 1981, Ramis helped turn out the scripts for Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, and Stripes. I told you he was responsible for Bill Murray.

His acting career saw memorable supporting turns in everything from Knocked Up to Orange County to As Good As It Gets.

It was as a director, though, that Ramis really found his niche. He kicked off his career by directing Caddyshack and National Lampoon's Vacation. Not impressed yet? Ramis also distinguished himself by directing perhaps the best romantic comedy of all time, Groundhog Day (yeah, I said it - Sleepless in Seattle, who?).

Social media has already started to swell with well wishes and words of praise for the departed comedian, a wave of support that echoes a lifetime of commitment to making people laugh. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Ramis ... was surrounded by family when he died at 12:53 a.m," this morning. The entire country is in shock at the loss of such a unique talent and all-around good guy.

We can only hope that Patton Oswalt got it right when he said on Twitter, "If there's a heaven, I hope Harold Ramis is making Aristophanes, Cervantes & Molière sing "Da Do Run Run Run."

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