Feature

Harold Ramis’ on-the-job training

Harold Ramis thinks his work at a psychiatric ward equipped him to write such gross-out, anti-establishment comedies as <em>Meatballs, Animal</em> <em>House,</em> and <em>Caddyshack.</em>

Harold Ramis learned something about humor from working at a mental hospital, says Brett Martin in GQ. Years before he wrote or directed such gross-out, anti-establishment comedies as Meatballs, Animal House, and Caddyshack, he worked in the psychiatric ward at the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis. There, he saw many forms of lunacy. “It helped me learn the difference between what’s really crazy and what’s just anti-social or bizarre,” he says. “Half the patients were depressed women who would come in for a tuneup because their families didn’t know what to do with them. Then there were the full-blown psychotics. Throughout college I had this ideal—I’m not sure who said it—‘Nothing human offends me.’ That becomes real in a psych ward. You know, okay, that person has just s--- in their hand and is now painting the walls with it. He’s probably upset about something. So the next time you see someone s--- in their hand, you’re not that surprised.” Given his eventual choice of career, Ramis thinks the experience was a good fit. “I might have been suited to that job because I have an amazing tolerance for outlandish behavior, and an interest in it. But yeah, I think I was well equipped to deal with actors—especially the ones who feel the need to act out in anti-social ways.”

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