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Caddyshack

Caddyshack

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Harold Ramis, fresh from receiving yet another award for his career in comedy film, is feeling OK.

Not great.

OK.

Well, actually, "I feel remorseful." Only hours earlier, he'd been honored with a lifetime achievement award at Chicago's Music Box Theatre.

Fans, friends and loved ones cheered his prodigious work as a writer-director-actor-producer as they watched clips from "Animal House," "Ghostbusters," "Groundhog Day," "Caddyshack," "Stripes," "Analyze This" and more.

Ramis' take: "I can't look at any of the work without thinking, I wouldn't say 'overrated.' But I focus on the flaws and the shortcomings." As for that remorse — not to be confused with the more generalized sadness, insecurity and ambivalence that he also feels and cheerfully talks about — it's quite specific.

Thinking about his brief acceptance speech the night before, "I feel remorseful about not acknowledging my family yesterday when I received the award." Did they complain? "No," but, "I think how nice it might have felt for them if I had acknowledged the amazing contribution they make to my life." Nobody will ever accuse this guy of living an unexamined life.

Ramis, 64, is one of only a few Hollywood directors who have lived in Chicago (actually, Glencoe, Ill.).

Last week, he received the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the Just for Laughs festival that kicked off with a screening Advertisementof his latest film, "Year One." The week before he was honored with a career retrospective at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, and there was another one last weekend at the Nantucket Film Festival.

Looking backThese events might make anyone a little introspective about his life, but that's not what's going on here.

"I think in those terms all the time "...

like all the time." So much so that Ramis is on the board of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.

"So, I get to talk to shrinks," he says, laughing.

"And sometimes I pay for it." Yes, he's in therapy.

Has been on and off for decades.

Then why does he think he didn't thank his family — his wife, Erica; and sons, Julian, 19; and Daniel, 14, who were in the audience? (He also has a daughter, Violet, 32, from his first marriage, and two grandchildren, 7 and 2.) "I have a mirror in my office that I bought at a curio shop on Martha's Vineyard, and around the border it says, 'It's all about me.' And I'm afraid that's what happened in the moment." By the way, he loves the adulation.

"Let me say, it never gets old." But he analyzes it.

A lot.

"I've been thinking about the psychology not just of creativity but of the entertainment industry.

Being a director is almost like a psychiatric practice.

"There's all kinds of psychological aspects of it: being everybody's shrink or confessor or daddy or whatever they need," he says.

Speaking of daddy, to be close to his aging parents, Ramis moved his young family from California to Chicago in 1996.

Ruth and Nate Ramis owned small grocery stores in the city.

His mother died eight years ago and his father still lives on his own, 15 minutes from Ramis, in Northbrook, Ill.

He turned 94 the day before his son was honored in Chicago.

Raised during the Depression when movie comedy was an important escape, Nate Ramis relishes his son's success.

"He eats it up," says the younger Ramis.

In a New Yorker magazine profile five years ago, Ramis' dad observed, "I don't think Harold has any insecurities." "He never asked me," Ramis deadpans.

"I think he's idealized my life to the point that he forgets that we all suffer," and here Ramis pauses.

"My life is so good on the surface that he forgets to ask me how I really feel." So, tell us.

The role of suffering"The first principle of Buddhism is we're all suffering beings.

Life is characterized by suffering and, uh, so I suffer.

Sure "...

I think my issue is more sadness than anxiety." Bear in mind that these deeper musings are coming from a director whose new film, "Year One," gets laughs from jokes about poop, farts, erections, breasts and urine.

"Most people would tell you that they are comedians because they're so miserable," says Ramis.

"I think comedy is a response to suffering.

"...

Comedy works when it accurately describes something that most of us don't want to deal with, makes public the things that are usually kept private," whether it's bodily functions, religion, government or social propriety.

Ramis was a close friend of John Belushi, and he says he has dreamed about him since Belushi's death of a drug overdose in 1982.

But, he volunteers, "I think more about Bill Murray, who's still alive." After directing his once-close-friend Murray in "Groundhog Day" (1993), Murray "disappeared from my life." "There was no incident.

We just had a quiet parting of the ways," Ramis says.

Back on the need for approval, "I think about, 'What's Bill doing? What does Bill think of me?' I can't help it.

"He's got a powerful personality.

Volcanic feelings," says Ramis.

"Rodney Dangerfield.

I did a special with Rodney called 'It's Not Easy Bein' Me.' I'd probably say the same for Bill." And is it easy being Harold Ramis? "Ehh, uh, yeah," he says.

"It's pretty easy.

Comparatively.

My shrink says never compare yourself but I said "...

'I gotta compare myself.' This is relatively good.

"Knock on wood."

http://www.mercurynews.com/movies/ci_12688680
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