Filmmakers and audiences who believe that dramas are all about thud and glumness and heavy-osity and that comedies are all about froth and silliness and the sound of farts are really quite clueless. We can all be thankful that the late Harold Ramis was not among them. “I’ve always thought that comedy was just another dramatic expression,” he told Believermag‘s Eric Spitznagel in a curiously undated q & a. “I try to measure the amount of truth in a work rather than just looking at the generic distinction between comedy and drama. There’s a lot of bullshit drama out there that leaves you totally cold. And there’s a lot of wasted comedy time too. But when you get something honest, it doesn’t matter what label you give it. Look at a movie like Sideways, which is funny and still so painful. It points to the idea that life is full of ambiguity. Most people live somewhere on the spectrum of anxiety and depression.”

And this: “I can’t tell you how many people have told me, ‘When I go to the movies, I don’t want to think.’ [That] offends me as a human being. Why wouldn’t you want to think? What does that mean? Why not just shoot yourself in the fucking head? Or people’ll say that they don’t want to see any negative emotions. They don’t want to see unpleasantness. I did a comedy with Al Franken about his character Stuart Smalley, which was really about alcoholism and addiction and codependency. It had some painful stuff in it. When we showed it to focus groups, some of them actually said, ‘If I want to see a dysfunctional family, I’ll stay home.’ [Except] life is difficult, and I like movies that acknowledge that.”

I heard a story in ’95 about Ramis being so upset following a test screening of (or a focus group response to) Stuart Saves His Family that he bolted out of a Paramount studios screening room, and that then-Paramount chief Sherry Lansing followed him out and chased after him into the parking lot, shouting “Harold! Harold!” I got on the phone with Ramis a bit later and Ramis’s opening remark was, “Hi, Jeff….got the hatchet out?” I felt so deflated by that comment that I bent over backwards in our conversation to be as gracious and considerate as possible. I felt enormous waves of compassion for him. My sense was that he was really hurting at that point.

In a statement issued today about Ramis’s passing, President Obama referenced a Bill Murray line in Caddyshack: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Harold’s wife, Erica, his children and grandchildren, and all those who loved him, who quote his work with abandon, and who hope that he received total consciousness.”