The Fish
for 21 November 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
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Almost Ramis

This whole column is about how Ramis has no revolutionary socialist street credibility? Is the assumption here that coming of age in the Sixties and working in Hollywood automatically puts you in the worker's vanguard?


No Rich, you big fascista, the only point is that Ramis dismisses social protest and satire (by implication) as immature. But he won't follow through on his own "wacky redemption" philosophy, his supposedly mature POV, when real redemption is required in an Analyze This. It feels like he's rationalizing an I Don't Want To Get Involved attitude as somehow enlightened.

Bert V. Debs, Esq.

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Nice piece. I've always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Ramis since hearing him (as Egon Spengler, the uber-nerd of Ghostbusters) utter the immortal words, "I feel like the floor of a taxicab."

I'm surprised you didn't mention Ramis' turn as the deus ex machina in As Good As It Gets. In a film populated almost exclusively by misfits, he's the saintly (if bloated) doctor brought in by Jack Nicholson to save Helen Hunt's kid. Of course, there's no way Hunt can afford him; it's up to Nicholson and his big bucks to keep the Rent-a-Savior from moseying on to greener pastures. Was I the only person in the world who found this scene to be spiritually unsatisfying? Did you see the look of thinly veiled disgust on Ramis' face when Hunt tells him she couldn't afford his fancy tests? How's that for an articulation of the "I'm not broken, you're broken, show me the money" Boomer ethos?

Your Gentle Reader,


Hi Dave,

I have a soft spot for Ramis, too. The guy is undeniably funny, and it's only his dismissal of social protest as childish that got me going. The implication that every American satirist from Twain to Bill Hicks really needs to grow up seemed kind of defensive on his part.

Bertolt Bramis

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Ghostbusters always pissed me off, mainly because I didn't think it was helpful to make the EPA a scapegoat. I never thought about it beyond that (it's only a stupid movie, after all). Thanks for some context.


Hi Frank,

Yeah, not that I care what Ramis' politics are, but how right wing paranoiac do you have to be to see the EPA during the Reagan years as out of control?

Thanks for writing,

Bert Blecht

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

One of the disagreeable things in Ramis is the Christian-proofing scene. In Ghostbusters, we have Ernie Hudson, apropos of nothing, delivering that weird line about how "I like Jesus' style." — it's supposed to solace the audience worried about the occult content of the film, making it Christian-proof. And he does it again in Bedazzled, with the jailhouse scene in which the fellow prisoner — could it be Jesus? — starts going on about how heaven and hell are within you (Really? Then why is Satan spending so much time and treasure fishing for souls in this movie? Even Little Nicky, with its tossed-off line about "the balance of good and evil" had its cosmology more worked out). Anyway, you've done a fine overview of Ramis' career; plus, for the purposes of the article you had to go back and rewatch Stripes, which I couldn't have done even to see that scene of Murray teasing P. J. Soles with a spatula. Good work.


Richard von Busack

Thanks, Richard. Hmmm, token gestures to the Xtian right and Ernie Hudson's character as token black employee — Ghostbusters is more Reaganesque than I thought!

Bertrum Blechtum

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

If you want to understand the roots of Harold Ramis' oeuvre, his philosophy if you will, how under a veneer of rebellion he basically believes in cooperation, participation, responsibility, and deference to authority, you have to understand one fundamental fact:

He's Canadian.

Michael K.

Nope, Mike, he's a Chicagoan. So I'm still confused. I think he's a typical baby boomer who feels that any systematic, go along to get along, status quo move set to a rock and roll song is proof the '60s will never die.

And why is it when I ran my American Century 2.0 piece I got similar letters complaining that one of our distinguished citizens was supposedly a Canadian? Canada has Howie Mandel to brag about — can't you leave us something?

Bertus Blechtus

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Wow. That was great. Just GREAT. Thanks so much for your thoughts in this essay, they're very moving, fascinating, & upsetting.

David Murrell

Well, gee David, no need to get upset about Ramis when you think how many Pauley Shore movies got made!

Bert Blecht

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

The differences between you and Harold Ramis are as follows:

He's funny.

He's successful.

He doesn't publish works with blatant, multiple punctuation errors.

I'm sure there are plenty more. I just stopped giving a shit about 20 seconds ago.

Chris Little

Hmmm. Unfunny, unsuccessful, illiterate ... Chris, there's might be an open governor's seat in Texas pretty soon. Can I use you as a reference?

Bertolio Brechto

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Excellent article.

As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. Social critics sound a lot more convincing when they aren't obviously projecting their unresolved parental issues onto a larger canvas. It may be unfair to expect Ramis to present the complete picture — he simply represents (very well at times, especially as you note in Groundhog Day) one end of the polarity. It's up to each of us to draw from the artists and thinkers around us in determining what civic life/personal growth ratio works best in our respective lives.

Strangely enough, I always thought Ramis (at least in his "Officer Friendly" and "Moe Green" characters) was the edgiest of the SCTVers. Then again, it's no feat for an American to be edgier than a bunch of (mostly) Canadians.

Andrew James

Quite true, quite true, Andy. Canadians, like most woodland creatures, are a simple, friendly breed. But they can be dangerous when caught in those nasty leg snap traps — so watch out!

Ramis in his SCTV days was a little more sarcastic and rude, probably the influence of the National Lampoon (he had been working on their radio show) and guys like Michael O'Donoghue and Doug Kenney. A lot of comedy then had more attitude, if not much more to say, than you get now. I don't think Ramis is a bad guy. It's just that he doesn't think anyone is that bad, either.


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

excellent analysis of harold ramis & many show business types like him — they may seem to raise hell and march outside the castle walls

but they don't want to tear the Castle — The Image Of Repression — Down — Harold and his types simply want to be on the inside

thank you

peter gent

Yeah, agreed, a lot of comedians today come across like they've got something to say — Dennis Miller, Bill Maher, David Letterman — but they're hardly working the same side of the street as Pryor or Roseanne. That's what is so interesting to me about Bill Murray. He's trying to get away from that.


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

mr. blecht,

you forget that most inspirational of 80's films: Back to the Future, directed by Ramis's dialectical opposite, Robert Zemeckis. Here we learn the monumental value of standing up for yourself...what does it bring but good fortune, better waistlines, and prettier women? It is a small leap to the logic of Forrest Gump...Add the Ramis formula with that of Zemeckis, and you have enveloped most any form of seriocomic entertainment available today. Whether screwball, slacker, smartass, simpleton, or nerd, one can still, through the benefice of America, achieve. fyi.


... "dialectical" ... "enveloped" ... "seriocomic entertainment" ... "benefice" ...

Fess up, Schrope -- are you some kinda grad student? Are you throwing a lot of book learnin' and two dollar words at us? We're not intimidated one bit, pal. can throw down with the best. To wit: Contextual precepts ... Pirandelian irony (beat that one!) ... ipso facto ... obfuscate ... all of which goes to prove that the best way to get ahead in America is to learn English.

Re Zemeckis: I always liked the idea that he was kidding with that last ten minutes of Back to the Future; that the super success '80s family that Michael J. Fox returns to is in fact just as creepy as the one he left.

Bertolemew Brechtgenstein, Phd (pin headed dope)

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Ballot Designs Rejected by the Palm Beach County Election Committee

Cute column today, but bipartisanship demands that you also take a break from the Demmies "gee, the ballot confused us" logrolling. Howzabout a contest for the best punch line to "How many Palm Beach Democrats does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"

Ralph Ward


You've got us there. We can't believe you correctly identified us as Gore apparatchiks who have successfully infiltrated We have an excuse: our editor, a noted foaming-at-the-mouth Gore man, forced us to do it. He's been following the Tennessee tyro since his days as a journalist in Vietnam and insists that all election coverage reflect his fan-boy bias. Speaking of bipartisanship, we love the way the Republicans send a bunch of lawyers and politicians down to Florida to go on CNN and say things like "Once you have lawyers and politicians getting involved in elections, you know you're in trouble." Can someone think of a shorter term for "faux-populist disingenuity" than "James Baker"? Frankly, whenever we hear the word "bipartisan," we just think "fascist." Anyway, good luck in New Mexico, you guys! And in answer to your question about the lightbulb, we don't know how many it takes, but we know they only have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to do it. Or until Saturday. Or until next month.

Slotcar Hatebath and Roger O. Thornhill

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Si, Si —

I agree with Signore Slotcar's ballots ideas especially the Cocktail Napkin Ballot since I am known to frequent finer watering holes. My fave is a stripper bar called El Amore — so this method would work for me and my cabal.


Giavanna Van Tassel

Dear Giavanna:

What does your cabal vote on? In particular, what are its hot-button issues? You'll be interested in another Palm Beach County ballot design proposal that we neglected to mention, the G-String Money Tuck Ballot, where voters scribble the candidate's name on a ten-dollar bill and slide it under the g-string of a woman undulating before them. No idea why this one got shot down. For additional monies, voters would've be able to "conference" with election officials at a table in the back after their vote was cast, where they could've gone over their talking points. This ballot design was intended to stop the candidates from being the ones performing the lapdances. And evidently in the next election in some states, voters will be able to use Video Poker to cast their votes as well, so it sounds like your posse will be all set anyway.

Thanks for writing in.

Slotcar Hatebath and Roger O. Thornhill

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Dear Club Havana,

I commend you on your proposals for alternate Florida ballot options. It is a shame you were not on the the original design committee. Here are a couple of options that you may have overlooked. Various ballots based on party games. The diving for apples ballot. The pin the tail on the donkey ballot.I really think carnies should be involved in some way. Also the publishers' sweepstakes clearinghouse ballot with ed mcmahon announcing the winner on national TV. Maybe we could get rid of ballots and candidates all together — with the who wants to be president of the United States ballot. Willing contestants who win the fastest finger competition could compete for various levels — with vice pres and pres at the top. If you miss a question you could still leave with speaker of the house. This would have the added bonus of Regis Philbin presiding over the inauguration.

Michael Lewy

Mr. Lewy:

These are all good ideas too, but we checked again with our mole and apparently none of them were considered in Palm Beach. Some shot-down designs did included the A La Carte Sushi Ballot, the Hangman Ballot, the Crossword Puzzle ballot, and the Miramax Preview Card Ballot. Interesting that you bring up Regis. As our current lame-duck president, he of course would be at the Inauguration, but he wouldn't be presiding over it. Or didn't you hear? Whoever eventually wins this election also gets to be new host of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

Thanks for making your voice heard!

Slotcar Hatebath and Roger O. Thornhill

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

A most amusing article this morning, kudos. To me what's so strange is that I was able to vote in Los Angeles several weeks before the election took place. The county has been testing out a system of touch-screens to replace standard paper ballots and as part of the test several voting stations were set up in various county offices as of Oct. 16th. Always the early adopter type-A prick, I decided to give it a shot myself to see how badly screwed up new whole system would be. Imagine my surprise when I found equipment that was easy to use, careful to check on mistakes ["Are you sure you want to vote for XXXX?" would appear each time before I could move on to the next item], impossible to vote for more than one candidate for the same office and overall a reasonably pleasant experience. The only limitations would seem to be the expense [$25K per booth. Ouch.], questions of how effective it would be once scaled up for all county polling centers and the remote possibility that Bill Gates would use his influence to stick his name in as a write-in candidate [though with typical Mickeysloth accuracy, get himself elected dogcatcher instead of president], but it is obvious that with a system like this in place, mistakes of the sort being argued over in Florida at the present hour would have been instantly avoided. Not to mention that the count would be over immediately and we could all get back to much more amusing events... [please see: this]

[Don't blame me, I voted for Nader.]

Respectfully yours,

Steve Gattuso

Mr. Gattuso:

Actually, they had something like this in certain polling stations in Palm Beach County. But the systems were very prone to error and repeatedly issued an option screen that said "Abort Ignore Retry," which some believe may have led to higher-than-statistically-probable votes for the Planned Parenthood candidate, the Know-Nothing candidate, and Bill Clinton. As for us getting back to more amusing events, we find it hard to believe that Americans are in a panic about this situation and can't wait for it to end. No, on the contrary we think that Americans will feel a great sense of let-down, not to mention emptiness, once the situation is resolved.

Thanks for sending in the LA results! We heard no one there voted, except for Warren Beatty. You prove this wrong!

Slotcar Hatebath and Roger O. Thornhill

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

 The Shit
Physical Strength and How to Obtain It, by Eugen Sandow
Bamboozled, A Spectacular New Film by Mr. Spike Lee
G. Beato's all-new Soundbitten
William Demarest, Sultan of Snarl, in The Lady Eve (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
George Wallace: Settin' The Woods On Fire, directed by Daniel McCabe and Paul Stekler
Bobby Darin, Darin at the Copa (Atlantic)
Shinji-San in the floating world of indeterminate duration, by Peter Richardson
American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation, by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor
Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1996, Merge)
45, by Bill Drummond
Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, Singing in the Rain (ASV)
Do you know of stuff that doesn't actively suck? Things so good they deserve to make the Shitlist?Send your suggestions to us.

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