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Before 'Groundhog Day' and 'Caddyshack,' There Was 'SCTV': Five Clips From Harold Ramis' Canadian Sketch Comedy Career

Photo of Ben Travers By Ben Travers | Indiewire February 24, 2014 at 7:35PM

Though Harold Ramis will always be remembered for his incredible work in film, the comedy writer got his start in television with "SCTV" and a handful of TV movies.
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Harold Ramis on the set of 'Year One'
Columbia Pictures Harold Ramis on the set of 'Year One'

Though many fans of Harold Ramis, who passed away today, will spend upcoming days and weeks reminiscing about "Ghostbusters," "Caddyshack," and "Groundhog Day," it's important to remember the comedy writer's impressive beginnings on television, namely as an original member of "SCTV."

In case you're too young to remember, "Second City Television" was a Canadian sketch comedy series brought into fruition by Toronto's Second City theatre troupe that ran between 1976 and 1984, and Ramis played an integral part as an actor, writer and producer. The incredibly talented original cast also included John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O'Hara and Dave Thomas, and the show went from initially airing on Canada's Global Television Network to eventually ending up on NBC. Below you'll find a few choice selections from the show's run highlighting Ramis' comedic gifts.

One of Ramis' recurring characters on "SCTV" was Maurice "Moe" Green, the fictional station's station manager and provider of much needed, if slightly tardy advice. Green was a popular, recurring character on "SCTV," though he took on different challenges in each new sketch.


Each episode of "SCTV" not only provided original content for its fictional station, but plenty of fake commercials as well. In this clip, Ramis' character Ned tells viewers about "the exciting new field of Stethoscopy." Ramis' everyman charm shines through, along with a rather impressive vocabulary.


Moe Green returns in this clip as a financial instructor teaching viewers the importance of bookkeeping... and railing against the one percent, as well. The brief clip is only a quarter of the running time of most sketches performed today, yet the succinct conclusion makes "Sunrise Semester" feel right at home for viewers young and old.


Harold Ramis plays Dustin Eastwood in the Sergio Leone parody, "A Fistful of Ugly," a comparatively lengthy bit picking apart the bloodthirsty nature of the Wild West with a family friendly version of events. The smooth-faced, anything-but-rugged Ramis is perfectly cast as The (Benign) Sheriff with No Name, and the straight-faced comedian doesn't disappoint with his laid back interpretation of the sketch. John Candy co-stars as a fight-picking Mexican, while the rest of the "SCTV" cast rounds out the entertaining short comedy.


In what at first appears to be a mock advertisement for an arthritis medicine (and then a toothpaste) that ends up becoming a subtle attack on a health care system, Ramis stars as drug store owner Mr. O'Connor, a businessman ready to sell any product whatsoever -- practical or not -- to the sweet old lady visiting his store. It's worth noting four of the five clips listed in this article feature Ramis as a character attacking "the man."


For more on Ramis, read Indiewire Chief Film Critic Eric Kohn's obituary on the late performer and filmmaker.

This article is related to: Television, TV Features, Harold Ramis, SCTV, Comedy





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