Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Harold Ramis; Thanks to You
"You're such a carnivore," I derided while I did my best to shame Harold Ramis with slow motion gesticulations, squinted disapproving eyes and attitude. I was improvising with the comedy legend one night when he stopped by to improvise with the e.t.c. cast at The Second City. I was playing a woman in love with her garden full of vegetables and Harold was playing a guy who just wanted to eat some meat. The line coupled with the non-verbals got a big laugh. Harold Ramis let a small smirk come across his face.
I was on stage with the guy from Stripes; a movie I watched over and over on cable when I was in high school. Once my line got the laugh he didn't do anything to try and grab the laugh back. In fact, he seemed to bask in the fact that the audience was laughing at me. Then he proceeded to say the next logical thing a "carnivore" might say with a laid back approach; playing the scene rather than the need to get a laugh.
It was one of those nights where as an ensemble we weren't hitting any home runs. Scenes meandered a little bit. Nothing was downright bad but there weren't many gems either. Mr. Ramis found a way to enhance every scene. Every darn thing he said was funny and even when a scene was going nowhere he found a way to elevate it and make it better. He did all this in the most gentleman-like style; letting us go first, standing when we entered the room, opening the door.
I came to improvisation as a theatre actor who was funny who quickly learned the basics of improvisation and was thrust into performing with people who had been studying it for years. They also happened to be brilliant. I rarely felt like I was in my element. Harold Ramis made me feel like an improviser that night.
He is known for saying, "If you concentrate on making everyone else around you look good, then it makes everybody look good."
I know he practiced that on stage. From everything I have been reading he did the same in life.
Great words to live by.
Job well done, Sir.