Join Date: Aug 2000
Phil Hartman: Gone Ten Years Ago Today
Hartman was born Philip Edward Hartmann in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, of German Catholic descent, and was the son of Doris M. and Rupert L. Hartmann, who worked in sales. His family immigrated to the United States in 1957, and Hartman attended Westchester High School and Cal State Northridge in Los Angeles, California, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in the early-1990s. The exact timing of his switch from "Hartmann" to "Hartman" is unknown, but all of his acting credits after 1986 were billed under the surname "Hartman".
Looking for what he described as "a psychological release valve," he joined the California-based comedy group The Groundlings in 1975. Hartman met comedian Paul Reubens while working with the group and the two became friends, often writing and working on material together. One such collaboration was the character of Pee-wee Herman and the script of the feature film Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Hartman worked with Paul Reubens in "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie" in a small role. Hartman met Jon Lovitz while with The Groundlings. Hartman was fluent in German and a video circulated once of him doing a standup routine in the language.
Hartman worked part time as a graphic artist, including designing album covers for popular rock bands. Hartman's covers include:
* Poco's 1978 album Legend
* Firesign Theatre's 1980 album Fighting Clowns
* Three album covers for the band America
* Crosby, Stills & Nash's logo
In 1986, Hartman joined the cast of NBC's popular variety show Saturday Night Live and stayed for eight seasons. Hartman was known for his impressions, which included former president Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, Frank Sinatra, Telly Savalas, Ed McMahon, Michael Caine, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Nicholson, Barbara Bush, Burt Reynolds, Phil Donahue, and former president Bill Clinton, which was perhaps his best-known impression. His other Saturday Night Live characters included Frankenstein's monster and Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. He returned twice to host the show following his 1994 departure.
Also in 1986, Hartman reprised his role as Captain Carl, one of Pee-wee Herman's close friends and famed sea captain in the first season of Pee-wee's Playhouse. He left after the thirteenth episode. He also lent his voice to the cartoon version of Dennis the Menace, playing Henry Mitchell (Dennis' father) and long suffering neighbor George Wilson. Hartman later revealed to radio talkshow host Howard Stern that he and Pee Wee creator/star Paul Reubens had had a creative falling-out, and that Reubens had reneged on a promise to give him a portion of the profits from the Pee-Wee TV series and feature films. Hartman said at the time that he would not consider suing Reubens, as a matter of honor.
From 1991 to 1998, Hartman provided the voices for a number of characters on the popular animated series The Simpsons, including dubious attorney Lionel Hutz, B-movie actor Troy McClure, Bart's "bigger brother" Tom, and slippery monorail shyster Lyle Lanley. In the episode "Selma's Choice," he lent his voice to five different characters, including McClure and Hutz. He also voiced Bill Clinton.
In 1994, Hartman left SNL. His last scene on Saturday Night Live consisted of him consoling Chris Farley (who was dressed as his Matt Foley character). Hartman's next project was to be a self-titled network variety show; after Dana Carvey announced plans for his own variety show, Hartman instead cast his eye on a more standard sitcom. In 1995, he became one of the stars of the NBC sitcom NewsRadio, where he portrayed fatuous radio news anchor Bill McNeal. Many have attributed the cancellation of the show to Hartman's death, citing that the humor was thrown off balance despite the casting of Lovitz (who replaced Hartman). Ironically, in two episodes of NewsRadio Hartman's character was one of only two to survive tragedies. In the show, Bill makes mention several times of a girlfriend who is unstable and who tries to kill him. In 1996, Hartman voiced a character in the Seinfeld episode The Package who phones Elaine in the middle of the night to ask her to spell her surname. This performance was uncredited but is mentioned in the "Notes About Nothing" feature on the eighth season DVD. He was appearing in a cliffhanger on the series 3rd Rock from the Sun at the time of his death. His character did not appear in the second episode of the cliffhanger.
Secondary film roles
Hartman's filmography includes often secondary or supporting roles in such feature films as Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Greedy, Houseguest, Coneheads, Three Amigos, Stuart Saves His Family (voice only), Sgt. Bilko, So I Married an Axe Murderer, CB4, Jingle All The Way and Small Soldiers, the last of which would become his final silver screen appearance and was thus dedicated to him. His last role was in the English version of Hayao Miyazaki's Kiki's Delivery Service, where he provided the voice of Jiji the cat. The English dub of the movie was dedicated to his memory.
Hartman married Gretchen Lewis in 1970, and divorced at an unknown point, before 1982. In 1982 he married his second wife Lisa Strain. The marriage lasted three years, with the couple divorcing in 1985. Hartman married Brynn Omdahl on November 25, 1987, Together they had two children, Sean Edward Hartman (born 1989) and Birgen Anika Hartman (born 1992). Brynn was said to be jealous of Hartman's success. She made comments to Hartman's Saturday Night Live co-star Jan Hooks that maybe Hooks and Phil were married "on some other level." A friend recalled that Brynn "had trouble controlling her anger... She got attention by losing her temper."
On May 28, 1998, Hartman was murdered by his wife Brynn Hartman in his Encino, Los Angeles County, California home. He was 49 years old. While he slept, Brynn entered his bedroom with a revolver and fatally shot him multiple times in and around the mouth. Brynn was intoxicated, and had recently taken cocaine. She drove to the home of her friend Ron Douglas and fainted after confessing to the murder. After she regained consciousness, the pair drove back to Hartman's house in separate cars, where Douglas saw Hartman's body. Douglas phoned emergency services and admitted to the call operator he initially did not believe Brynn's story until he had seen Phil's body. On arrival, the police attempted to remove the Hartmans' two young children and Douglas from the premises. Brynn entered the bedroom and committed suicide by shooting herself once through the temple.
An unnamed neighbor of the Hartmans told a CNN reporter that the couple had been experiencing marital problems: "It's been building, but I didn't think it would lead to this." Steve Guttenberg commented that the pair were "a very happy couple, and they always had the appearance of being well-balanced."
Los Angeles police stated Hartman's murder was due to "domestic discord" between the couple. At the time of the murder, Brynn Hartman was taking the antidepressant drug Zoloft, which was cited as a cause of her actions. A wrongful-death suit was filed by Brynn's brother, Gregory Omdahl, against the drug's manufacturer, Pfizer, and her psychiatrist Arthur Sorosky, who prescribed the product.
Hartman was deeply mourned in Hollywood. NewsRadio produced a special episode where the cast tearfully mourned the death of Hartman's on-screen counterpart. Jon Lovitz joined the show in his place and stayed with it until its ultimate cancellation. Lovitz had been a member of the improvisional troupe The Groundlings alongside Hartman, and worked with him on Saturday Night Live for four seasons and when they both had cameos in the 1986 comedy Three Amigos. Lovitz and Hartman's former SNL colleagues—Jan Hooks, Kevin Nealon, Victoria Jackson, Dennis Miller, and Mike Myers—gave him an emotional remembrance at the SNL twenty-fifth anniversary show in 1999. Hartman's nickname (coined by Adam Sandler, according to Jay Mohr's book Gasping for Airtime) was "Glue" because of his way of working well with everyone and keeping many episodes together. Hartman was widely praised for his efforts to help new writers and cast members and for his professionalism on and off the set. Many people gave tributes to Hartman. Kathy Griffin recalled when she showed up at The Groundlings Los Angeles theater to learn about their classes, she had no idea what to expect until she was referred to one of its kindly cast members, one of whom was Hartman, who gave her a tour of the theater. Don Ohlmeyer said that Hartman "was blessed with a tremendous gift for creating characters that made people laugh. Everyone who had the pleasure of working with Phil knows that he was a man of tremendous warmth, a true professional and a loyal friend." Steve Guttenberg expressed his shock at Hartman's death, and Steve Martin called him "a deeply funny and very happy person".
Out of respect, the writers on The Simpsons retired Hartman's characters, rather than finding another voice actor. The episode "Bart the Mother" marked his final appearance on the show, and was dedicated to him. On audio commentary tracks accompanying The Simpsons DVD releases, the appearance of a Hartman character uniformly evokes heartfelt praise from the show's production staff. A number of major Simpsons players talk at length about their experience with Hartman as a rare combination of professionalism, effortless comedic facility, friendliness, and decency. Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein stated that they used Hartman as much as they possibly could in their seasons, as they were such big fans of him. It was noted by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, that his voice acting could produce "the maximum amount of humor" out of any line he was given. Before his death, Hartman had expressed an interest in making a live action film about Troy McClure, with many of The Simpsons production staff stating that they would have loved to help create it.
As per Hartman's will, his body was cremated by Forest Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Glendale, California, and his ashes were scattered over Santa Catalina Island's Emerald Bay.
At the time of his murder, Hartman was preparing to voice Zapp Brannigan, a character on Groening's other animated series Futurama, which was written specifically for him. After he died, the lead character in Futurama, Philip J. Fry, was named in Hartman's honor. Billy West took over the role. West's original audition characterization formed the basis for Brannigan's voice and West later said that he purposefully tweaked Zapp's voice to better match Hartman's portrayal out of respect.
He was posthumously nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Bill McNeal in NewsRadio, but lost out to actor David Hyde Pierce.
His last films, Small Soldiers and Kiki's Delivery Service were dedicated to his memory.
Brynn's sister, Katharine Wright, and her husband, Mike, who have no children of their own, are raising the Hartman children in Edina, Minnesota. As guardians of Sean and Birgen, the pair were awarded $50,000 per Phil Hartman's will. In May 2000, the Hartman children were awarded more than $10,000 each in a wrongful death suit. Hartman's will stipulated that each child will receive a third of their inheritance when they reach age 25, or obtain a bachelor's degree from a four-year accredited university. They get half their inheritance when they turn thirty, and the remainder of Hartman's assets when they turn 35. The total amount of Hartman's estate was estimated at $1.23 million.
In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named Hartman the eighty-seventh greatest television icon of all time, and Maxim placed Hartman top of their list of the top ten Saturday Night Live performers. According to the book, Live from New York: A Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live a favorite pastime of most current SNL writers is to come up with their "dream cast", it is said that Hartman is one of the only performers who makes almost every list.
Mrs Simpson, your sexual harassment case is just what I need to rebuild my shattered career! Care to join me in a belt of Scotch?
But it's 9:30 in the morning!
Yeah but... I haven't slept in days. [glug, glug] Last chance! [glug, glug] Ohh yeah!
Hutz: Now Marge, you've come to the right place. By hiring me as your lawyer, you also get this smoking monkey.
[sniff] Better cut down there, Smokey! [laughs]
Marge: Mr. Hutz!
Hutz: [excited] Look - he's taking another puff!
Marge: Mr. Hutz! This was all a misunderstanding; I didn't mean to take anything. [Lionel disappointedly drops the smoking monkey in a drawer full of identical critters]
Hutz: Now don't you worry, Mrs. Simpson, I - uh-oh. We've drawn Judge Snyder.
Marge: Is that bad?
Hutz: Well, he's kind of had it in for me, since I accidently ran over his dog. Actually, replace `accidently' with `repeatedly', and replace `dog' with `son'.
Lisa: Mr. Hutz, why are you burning all of your personal papers?
Hutz: As of now, Lionel Hutz no longer exists. Say hello to Miguel Sanchez!
Milhouse baby! Lionel Hutz, your new agent, unauthorized biographer and drug dealer..., er keeper awayer.
Hi, I'm Troy McClure. You might remember me from such self-help videos as "Smoke Yourself Thin", and "Get Confident, Stupid.".