Phil Hartman

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Phil Hartman
Phil as Chick-1-1.jpg
Phil Hartman in character as Chick Hazard, Private Eye, c. 1978
Philip Edward Hartmann

(1948-09-24)September 24, 1948
DiedMay 28, 1998(1998-05-28) (aged 49)
Cause of death Homicide by gunshot wounds
Nationality Canadian
Education Westchester High School
Alma mater California State University, Northridge
OccupationActor, comedian, screenwriter, graphic artist
Years active1969–1998
  • Gretchen Lewis
    (m. 1970;div. 1972)
  • Lisa Strain
    (m. 1982;div. 1985)
  • Brynn Omdahl
    (m. 1987)
  • Birgen Anika Hartman
  • Sean Edward Hartman

Philip Edward Hartmann (September 24, 1948 – May 28, 1998), better known as Phil Hartman, was a Canadian-American actor, comedian, screenwriter and graphic artist. Born in Brantford, Ontario, Hartman and his family moved to the United States in 1958. After graduating from California State University, Northridge, with a degree in graphic arts, he designed album covers for bands like Poco and America. Hartman joined the comedy group The Groundlings in 1975 and there helped comedian Paul Reubens develop his character Pee-wee Herman. Hartman co-wrote the screenplay for the film Pee-wee's Big Adventure and made recurring appearances as Captain Carl on Reubens' show Pee-wee's Playhouse .

Brantford City in Ontario, Canada

Brantford is a city in southwestern Ontario, Canada, founded on the Grand River. It is surrounded by Brant County, but is politically separate with a municipal government of its own that is fully independent of the county's municipal government.

California State University, Northridge university

California State University, Northridge is a public university in the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. With a total enrollment of 38,716 students, it has the largest undergraduate population as well as the second largest total student body of the 23-campus California State University system, making it one of the largest comprehensive universities in the State of California and the nation in terms of enrollment size. The size of CSUN also has a major impact on the California economy, with an estimated $1.9 billion in economic output generated by CSUN on a yearly basis. As of Fall 2017, the university had 2,127 faculty, of which 818 were tenured or on the tenure track.

Poco American country rock band

Poco is an American country rock band originally formed by Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Rusty Young. Formed following the demise of Buffalo Springfield in 1968, Poco was part of the first wave of the West Coast country rock genre. The title of their first album, Pickin' Up the Pieces, is a reference to the break-up of Buffalo Springfield. Throughout the years Poco has performed in various groupings, and is still active.


Hartman garnered fame in 1986 when he joined the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live . He won fame for his impressions, particularly of President Bill Clinton, and he stayed on the show for eight seasons. Given the moniker "The Glue" for his ability to hold the show together and help other cast members, Hartman won a Primetime Emmy Award for his SNL work in 1989. In 1995, after scrapping plans for his own variety show, he starred as Bill McNeal in the NBC sitcom NewsRadio . He voiced various roles on The Simpsons , most notably Lionel Hutz from seasons 2–9 and Troy McClure from seasons 2–10. Other Simpsons characters included Lyle Lanley, Mr. Muntz and minor characters. He also had roles in the films Houseguest , Sgt. Bilko , Jingle All the Way , Small Soldiers and the English dub of Kiki's Delivery Service .

<i>Saturday Night Live</i> American late-night live television sketch comedy and variety show

Saturday Night Live (SNL) is an American late-night live television variety show created by Lorne Michaels and developed by Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title NBC's Saturday Night. The show's comedy sketches, which often parody contemporary culture and politics, are performed by a large and varying cast of repertory and newer cast members. Each episode is hosted by a celebrity guest, who usually delivers the opening monologue and performs in sketches with the cast as with featured performances by a musical guest. An episode normally begins with a cold open sketch that ends with someone breaking character and proclaiming, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!", properly beginning the show.

Bill Clinton 42nd president of the United States

William Jefferson Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd president of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Prior to the presidency, he was the governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981, and again from 1983 to 1992, and the attorney general of Arkansas from 1977 to 1979. A member of the Democratic Party, Clinton was ideologically a New Democrat, and many of his policies reflected a centrist "Third Way" political philosophy.

The Primetime Emmy Award is an American award bestowed by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) in recognition of excellence in American primetime television programming. First given out in 1949, the award was originally referred to as simply the "Emmy Awards" until the first Daytime Emmy Award ceremony was held in 1974 and the word "prime time" was added to distinguish between the two.

Hartman had been divorced twice before he married Brynn Omdahl in 1987; the couple had two children together. However, their marriage was fractured, due in part to her drug use and Hartman’s own emotional distance, which was a factor in his previous two marriages ending. On May 28, 1998, Brynn Hartman shot and killed Hartman while he slept in their Encino, Los Angeles home, then killed herself several hours later. In the weeks following his death, Hartman was celebrated in a wave of tributes. Dan Snierson of Entertainment Weekly opined that Hartman was "the last person you'd expect to read about in lurid headlines in your morning paper ... a decidedly regular guy, beloved by everyone he worked with." [1] Hartman was posthumously inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 2012 and the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2014.

A murder–suicide is an act in which an individual kills one or more people before killing oneself. The combination of murder and suicide can take various forms, often linked to the first form:

Encino, Los Angeles District of Los Angeles in California, United States

Encino is a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California.

Suicide intentional act of causing ones own death

Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Mental disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and substance abuse—including alcoholism and the use of benzodiazepines—are risk factors. Some suicides are impulsive acts due to stress, such as from financial difficulties, troubles with relationships, or bullying. Those who have previously attempted suicide are at a higher risk for future attempts. Effective suicide prevention efforts include limiting access to methods of suicide—such as firearms, drugs, and poisons; treating mental disorders and substance misuse; proper media reporting of suicide; and improving economic conditions. Even though crisis hotlines are common, there is little evidence for their effectiveness.

Early life

Hartman designed album covers for bands such as Poco. PocoBand07.jpg
Hartman designed album covers for bands such as Poco.

Phil Hartman was born Philip Edward Hartmann (later dropping one "n") [2] on September 24, 1948, in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. [3] [4] He was the fourth of eight children of Doris Marguerite (Wardell) and Rupert Loebig Hartmann, a salesman specializing in building materials. [5] His parents were Catholic and raised their children in that faith. [3] [6] [7] As a child Hartman found affection hard to earn and stated: "I suppose I didn't get what I wanted out of my family life, so I started seeking love and attention elsewhere." [2]

Hartman was ten years old when his family moved to the United States. [8] The family first lived in Lewiston, Maine; before moving to Meriden, Connecticut; and then the West Coast. There, Hartman attended Westchester High School and frequently acted as the class clown. [2] [3] [4] [9] After graduating, Hartman studied art at Santa Monica City College, dropping out in 1969 to become a roadie with a rock band. [2] He returned to school in 1972, this time studying graphic arts at California State University, Northridge. He developed his own graphic arts business, which he operated on his own, creating over 40 album covers for bands including Poco and America, as well as advertising and the logo for Crosby, Stills & Nash. [1] [2] [9] [10] In the late 1970s, Hartman made his first television appearance on an episode of The Dating Game ; he won but was stood up by his date. [10]

Lewiston, Maine City in Maine, United States

Lewiston is the second largest city in Maine and the most central city in Androscoggin County. The city borders the coastal sideways of the Gulf of Maine and is south of Augusta, the state's capital, and north of Portland, the cultural hub of Maine. It is one-half of the Lewiston-Auburn Metropolitan Statistical Area, commonly referred to as "L.A." or "L-A." Lewiston exerts a significant impact upon the diversity, religious variety, commerce, education, and economic power of Maine. It is known for a relatively low cost of living, substantial access to medical care, and an extremely low violent-crime rate. While the dominant language spoken in the city is English, it is home to the largest French-speaking population in the United States while it is second to St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, in percentage of speakers.

Meriden, Connecticut City in Connecticut, United States

Meriden is a city in New Haven County, Connecticut, United States, located halfway between the regional cities of New Haven and Hartford. In 2010, the population of the city was 60,868.

West Coast of the United States Coastline

The West Coast or Pacific Coast is the coastline along which the continental Western United States meets the North Pacific Ocean. As a region, this term most often refers to the coastal states of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. More specifically, it refers to an area defined on the east by the Alaska Range, Cascade Range, Sierra Nevada, and Mojave Desert, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. The United States Census groups the five states of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii together as the Pacific States division.


Early career (1975–1985)

Working alone as a graphic artist, Hartman frequently amused himself with "flights of voice fantasies". [10] Citing the need for a more social outlet for his talents, Hartman, aged 27, began in 1975 to attend evening comedy classes run by the California-based improvisational comedy group The Groundlings. [4] [7] [9] While watching one of the troupe's performances, Hartman impulsively decided to climb on stage and join the cast. [3] [10] [11] Phil's first movie appearance was in the 1978 film Stunt Rock directed by Brian Trenchard Smith. [12] After several years of training, paying his way by re-designing the group's logo and merchandise, Hartman formally joined the cast of The Groundlings; by 1979 he had become one of the show's stars. [9]

The Groundlings Improv and theater group

The Groundlings are an improvisational and sketch comedy troupe and school based in Los Angeles, California. The troupe was formed by Gary Austin in 1974 and uses an improv format influenced by Viola Spolin, whose improvisational theater techniques were used by Del Close and other members of the Second City, located in Chicago and later St. Louis. They used these techniques to produce sketches and improvised scenes. Its name is taken from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act III, Scene II: " split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise." In 1975 the troupe purchased and moved into its current location on Melrose Avenue.

Hartman met comedian Paul Reubens and the two became friends, often collaborating on writing and comedic material. Together they created the character Pee-wee Herman and developed The Pee-wee Herman Show , a stage performance which also aired on HBO in 1981. [10] Hartman played Captain Carl on The Pee-wee Herman Show and returned in the role for the children's show Pee-wee's Playhouse . [10] Reubens and Hartman made cameos in the 1980 film Cheech & Chong's Next Movie . [7] [13] Hartman co-wrote the script of the 1985 feature film Pee-wee's Big Adventure and had a cameo role as a reporter in the film. [1] [4] Although he had considered quitting acting at the age of 36 due to limited opportunities, the success of Pee-wee's Big Adventure brought new possibilities and changed his mind. [14] [15] After a creative falling-out with Reubens, Hartman left the Pee-Wee Herman project to pursue other roles. [10] [16] [17]

In addition to his work with Reubens, Hartman recorded a number of voice-over roles. These included appearances on The Smurfs , Challenge of the GoBots , The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo , and voicing characters Henry Mitchell and George Wilson on Dennis the Menace . [2] Additionally Hartman developed a strong persona providing voice-overs for advertisements. [11]

Saturday Night Live (1986–1994)

As an actor, I felt I couldn't compete. I wasn't as cute as the leading man; I wasn't as brilliant as Robin Williams. The one thing I could do was voices and impersonations and weird characters, an [ sic ] there was really no call for that. Except on Saturday Night Live.

— Hartman on his acting skills. [2]

After appearing in the 1986 films Jumpin' Jack Flash and Three Amigos , Hartman successfully auditioned for NBC's variety show Saturday Night Live (SNL) and joined the cast and writing staff. [1] He told the Los Angeles Times , "I wanted to do [SNL] because I wanted to get the exposure that would give me box-office credibility so I can write movies for myself." [15] In his eight seasons with the show Hartman became known for his impressions, and performed as over 70 different characters. Hartman's original Saturday Night Live characters included Eugene, the Anal Retentive Chef and Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. [2] His impressions included Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Ed McMahon, Barbara Bush, Charlton Heston, Phil Donahue and Bill Clinton; the last was often considered his best-known impression. [1] [18]

Hartman first performed his Clinton impression on an episode of The Tonight Show . [19] When he met Clinton in 1993 Hartman remarked, "I guess I owe you a few apologies", [19] adding later that he "sometimes [felt] a twinge of guilt about [his Clinton impression]". [18] Clinton showed good humor and sent Hartman a signed photo with the text: "You're not the president, but you play one on TV. And you're OK, mostly." [18] For his Clinton impression, Hartman copied the president's "post-nasal drip" and the "slight scratchiness" in his voice, as well as his open, "less intimidating" hand gestures. Hartman opted against wearing a larger prosthetic nose when portraying Clinton, as he felt it would be distracting. He instead wore a wig, dyed his eyebrows brighter and used makeup to highlight his nose. [9] One of Hartman's more famous sketches as Clinton saw the president visit a McDonald's restaurant and explain his policies by eating other customers' food. The writers told him that he was not eating enough during rehearsals for the sketch – by the end of the live performance, Hartman had eaten so much he could barely speak. [19]

Hartman appears as Bill Clinton on an episode of Saturday Night Live. In this episode, Clinton visits a McDonald's restaurant, in one of Hartman's most famous sketches. ClintonHartman.jpg
Hartman appears as Bill Clinton on an episode of Saturday Night Live. In this episode, Clinton visits a McDonald's restaurant, in one of Hartman's most famous sketches.

Backstage at SNL, Hartman was called "the Glue", a name coined by Adam Sandler, according to Jay Mohr's book Gasping for Airtime . [9] [21] However, according to a biography on Hartman's life entitled You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman written by Mike Thomas, author and staff writer for the Chicago Sun-Times , the nickname was created by SNL cast member and Hartman's frequent on-screen collaborator Jan Hooks. [22] Hartman often helped other cast members. For example, he aided Hooks in overcoming her stage fright. [23] SNL creator Lorne Michaels explained the reason for the name: "He kind of held the show together. He gave to everybody and demanded very little. He was very low-maintenance." [6] Michaels also added that Hartman was "the least appreciated" cast member by commentators outside the show, and praised his ability "to do five or six parts in a show where you're playing support or you're doing remarkable character work". [2] Hartman won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program for SNL in 1989, sharing the award with the show's other writers. He was nominated in the same category in 1987, and individually in 1994 for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. [24]

After his co-stars Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Jan Hooks and Dana Carvey had left, Hartman said he felt "like an athlete who's watched all his World Series teammates get traded off into other directions ... It was hard to watch them leave because I sort of felt we were all part of the team that saved the show." [11] This cast turnover contributed to his leaving the show in 1994. [18] Hartman had originally planned to leave the show in 1991, but Michaels convinced him to stay to raise his profile; his portrayal of Clinton contributed to this goal. [11] Jay Leno offered him the role of his sidekick on The Tonight Show but Hartman opted to stay on SNL. [25] [26] NBC persuaded him to stay on SNL by promising him his own comedy–variety show entitled The Phil Show. [18] He planned to "reinvent the variety form" with "a hybrid, very fast-paced, high energy [show] with sketches, impersonations, pet acts, and performers showcasing their talents". Hartman was to be the show's executive producer and head writer. [27] Before production began, however, the network decided that variety shows were too unpopular and scrapped the series. In a 1996 interview, Hartman noted he was glad the show had been scrapped, as he "would've been sweatin' blood each week trying to make it work". [18] In 1998, he admitted he missed working on SNL, but had enjoyed the move from New York City to Southern California. [16]

NewsRadio (1995–1998)

Hartman became one of the stars of the NBC sitcom NewsRadio in 1995, portraying radio news anchor Bill McNeal. He signed up after being attracted by the show's writing and use of an ensemble cast, [9] [28] and joked that he based McNeal on himself with "any ethics and character" removed. [16] Hartman made roughly $50,000 per episode of NewsRadio. [6] Although the show was critically acclaimed, it was never a ratings hit and cancellation was a regular threat. After the completion of the fourth season, Hartman commented, "We seem to have limited appeal. We're on the edge here, not sure we're going to be picked up or not", but added he was "99 percent sure" the series would be renewed for a fifth season. [28] Hartman had publicly lambasted NBC's decision to repeatedly move NewsRadio into different timeslots, but later regretted his comments, saying, "this is a sitcom, for crying out loud, not brain surgery". [16] He also stated that if the sitcom were cancelled "it just will open up other opportunities for me". [28] Although the show was renewed for a fifth season, Hartman died before production began. [29] Ken Tucker praised Hartman's performance as McNeal: "A lesser performer ... would have played him as a variation on The Mary Tyler Moore Show 's Ted Baxter, because that's what Bill was, on paper. But Hartman gave infinite variety to Bill's self-centeredness, turning him devious, cowardly, squeamish, and foolishly bold from week to week." [30] Hartman was posthumously nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1998 for his work on NewsRadio, but lost to David Hyde Pierce. [24] [31]

The Simpsons (1991–1998)

Hartman provided the voices for numerous characters on the Fox animated series The Simpsons , appearing in 52 episodes. [1] He made his first appearance in the second season episode "Bart Gets Hit by a Car". Although he was originally brought in for a one-time appearance, Hartman enjoyed working on The Simpsons and the staff wrote additional parts for him. He voiced the recurring characters Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure, as well as several one-time and background characters. [32] His favourite part was that of McClure, [17] and he often used this voice to entertain the audience between takes while taping episodes of NewsRadio. He remarked, "My favorite fans are Troy McClure fans." [16] He added "It's the one thing that I do in my life that's almost an avocation. I do it for the pure love of it." [33]

Hartman was popular among the staff of The Simpsons. Showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein stated that they enjoyed his work, and used Hartman as much as possible when working on the show. To give Hartman a larger role, they developed the episode "A Fish Called Selma", which focuses on Troy McClure and expands the character's backstory. [34] The Simpsons creator Matt Groening said that he "took [Hartman] for granted because he nailed the joke every time", [1] and that his voice acting could produce "the maximum amount of humor" with any line he was given. [35] Before his death, Hartman had expressed an interest in making a live action film about Troy McClure. Many of The Simpsons production staff expressed enthusiasm for the project and offered to help. [36] Hartman said he was "looking forward to [McClure's] live-action movie, publicizing his Betty Ford appearances", [10] and "would love nothing more" than making a film and was prepared to buy the film rights himself in order to make it happen. [17]

Other work

Hartman's first starring film role came in 1995's Houseguest , alongside Sinbad. [37] Other films included Greedy , Coneheads , Sgt. Bilko , So I Married an Axe Murderer , CB4 , Jingle All the Way , Kiki's Delivery Service , and Small Soldiers , the last of which was his final theatrically released film. [38] [39] At the same time, he preferred working on television. [11] His other television roles included appearances on episodes of The John Larroquette Show , The Dana Carvey Show , and the HBO TV film The Second Civil War as the President of the United States. [19] He appeared as the kidnapper Randy in the third season cliffhanger finale of 3rd Rock from the Sun — a role reportedly written especially for him, but he died before filming of the concluding episode could take place. Executive producer Terry Turner decided to recast the part, reshoot and air the finale again, noting: "I have far too much respect for [Hartman] to try to find some clever way of getting around this real tragedy." [1] Hartman made a considerable amount of money from television advertising, [25] earning $300,000 for a series of four commercials for the soft drink Slice. [26] He also appeared in advertisements for McDonald's (as Hugh McAttack) and 1-800-Collect (as Max Jerome). [40]

Hartman wrote a number of screenplays that were never produced. [25] In 1986 he began writing a screenplay for a film titled Mr. Fix-It, [15] and completed the final draft in 1991. Robert Zemeckis was signed to produce the film, with Gil Bettman hired to direct. Hartman called it "a sort of a merger of horror and comedy, like Beetlejuice and Throw Momma From the Train ", adding, "It's an American nightmare about a family torn asunder. They live next to a toxic dump site, their water supply is poisoned, the mother and son go insane and try to murder each other, the father's face is torn off in a terrible disfiguring accident in the first act. It's heavy stuff, but it's got a good message and a positive, upbeat ending." Zemeckis could not secure studio backing, however, and the project collapsed. [41] Another movie idea involving Hartman's Groundlings character Chick Hazard, Private Eye also fell through. [15]


Clean and unassuming, he had such a casual, no-nonsense way about him. It was that quality that we all find so hilarious, his delightful ability to poke fun at himself and at life with a tongue-in-cheek attitude comparable to, say, Tim Conway or Mel Brooks or Carol Burnett.

Nancy Cartwright. [42]

In contrast to his real-life personality, which was described as "a regular guy and, by all accounts, one of show business' most low-key, decent people", [43] Hartman often played seedy, vain or unpleasant characters as well as comedic villains. [17] He noted that his standard character was a "jerky guy", and described his usual roles as "the weasel parade", [10] citing Lionel Hutz, Bill McNeal, Troy McClure and Ted Maltin from Jingle All the Way as examples. [17] Hartman enjoyed playing such roles because he "just want[ed] to be funny, and villains tend to be funny because their foibles are all there to see." [17]

He often played supporting roles, rather than the lead part. He said "throughout my career, I've never been a huge star, but I've made steady progress and that's the way I like it," [18] and "It's fun coming in as the second or third lead. If the movie or TV show bombs, you aren't to blame." [10] Hartman was considered a "utility player" on SNL with a "kind of Everyman quality" which enabled him to appear in the majority of sketches, often in very distinct roles. [9] Jan Hooks stated of his work on SNL: "Phil never had an ounce of competition. He was a team player. It was a privilege for him, I believe, to play support and do it very well. He was never insulted, no matter how small the role may have been." [23] He was disciplined in his performances, studying the scripts beforehand. Hooks added: "Phil knew how to listen. And he knew how to look you in the eye, and he knew the power of being able to lay back and let somebody else be funny, and then do the reactions. I think Phil was more of an actor than a comedian." [23] Film critic Pauline Kael declared that "Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks on Saturday Night Live are two of the best comic actors I've ever seen." [44]

Writer and acting coach Paul Ryan noted Hartman's work ethic with his impressions. He assembled a collection of video footage of the figure he was preparing to impersonate and watched this continually until he "completely embodied the person". Ryan concluded that "what made [Hartman's impressions] so funny and spot on was Phil's ability to add that perfect touch that only comes from trial and error and practicing in front of audiences and fellow actors." [45] Hartman described this process as "technical." [9] Journalist Lyle V. Harris said Hartman showed a "rare talent for morphing into ... anybody he wanted to be". [46]

Ken Tucker summarized Hartman's comedic style: "He could momentarily fool audiences into thinking he was the straight man, but then he'd cock an eyebrow and give his voice an ironic lilt that delivered a punchline like a fast slider—you barely saw it coming until you started laughing." [30] Hartman claimed that he borrowed his style from actor Bill Murray: "He's been a great influence on me – when he did that smarmy thing in Ghostbusters , then the same sort of thing in Groundhog Day . I tried to imitate it. I couldn't. I wasn't good enough. But I discovered an element of something else, so in a sick kind of way I made myself a career by doing a bad imitation of another comic." [10]

Personal life

Hartman married Gretchen Lewis in 1970, and they divorced sometime before 1972. He married real estate agent Lisa Strain in 1982, and their marriage lasted three years. Strain told People that Hartman was reclusive off screen and "would disappear emotionally ... he'd be in his own world. That passivity made you crazy." [6] Hartman married former model and aspiring actress Brynn Omdahl (born Vicki Jo Omdahl) in November 1987, having met her on a blind date the previous year. [3] [6] Together they had two children, Sean and Birgen Hartman. The marriage had difficulties – Brynn reportedly felt intimidated by her husband's success and was frustrated she could not find any on her own – although neither party wanted a divorce. Hartman considered retiring to save the marriage. [6] He tried to get Brynn acting roles but she became progressively more reliant on narcotics and alcohol, entering rehab several times. [3] Because of his close friendship with SNL associate Jan Hooks, Brynn joked on occasion that Hooks and Hartman were married "on some other level". [23]

Stephen Root, Hartman's NewsRadio co-star, felt that few people knew "the real Phil Hartman" as he was "one of those people who never seemed to come out of character," but he nevertheless gave the impression of a family man who cared deeply for his children. [47] In his spare time, Hartman enjoyed driving, flying, sailing, marksmanship, and playing the guitar. [1] [3]


On the evening of May 27, 1998, Brynn Hartman visited the Italian restaurant Buca di Beppo in Encino, California, with producer and writer Christine Zander, who said she was "in a good frame of mind". After returning to the couple's nearby home, Brynn had a "heated" argument with her husband. He threatened to leave her if she started using drugs again, after which he went to bed. [6] While Hartman slept, Brynn entered his bedroom sometime before 3:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on May 28 with a .38 caliber handgun and fatally shot him once between the eyes, once in the throat, and once in the upper chest. [6] She was intoxicated and had recently taken cocaine. [48]

Brynn drove to the home of her friend Ron Douglas and confessed to the killing, but initially he did not believe her. The pair drove back to the house in separate cars, and Brynn called another friend and confessed a second time. [6] [49] Upon seeing Hartman's body, Douglas called 911 at 6:20 a.m. Police subsequently arrived and escorted Douglas and the Hartmans' two children from the premises, by which time Brynn had locked herself in the bedroom and committed suicide by shooting herself in her mouth. [6] [50]

Los Angeles police stated Hartman's death was caused by "domestic discord" between the couple. [51] A friend alleged that Brynn "had trouble controlling her anger ... She got attention by losing her temper". [52] A 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", and actor Steve Guttenberg said they had been "a very happy couple, and they always had the appearance of being well-balanced." [50]

Other causes for the incident were later suggested. Before committing the act, Brynn was taking the antidepressant drug Zoloft. A wrongful-death lawsuit was filed in 1999 by Brynn's brother, Gregory Omdahl, against Pfizer, the drug's manufacturer, and her child's psychiatrist Arthur Sorosky, who provided samples of Zoloft to Brynn. [53] Hartman's friend and former SNL colleague Jon Lovitz has accused Hartman's former NewsRadio co-star Andy Dick of re-introducing Brynn to cocaine, causing her to relapse and suffer a nervous breakdown. Dick claims to have known nothing of her condition. [54] In 2006, Lovitz claimed that Dick had approached him at a restaurant and said, "I put the Phil Hartman hex on you; you're the next one to die." Lovitz responded by twice pushing Dick into the bar. [55] [56] The following year at the Laugh Factory comedy club in Los Angeles, Lovitz and Dick had a further altercation over the issue. [56] Dick asserts that he is not at fault in relation to Hartman's death. [54]

Brynn's sister Katharine Omdahl and brother-in-law Mike Wright raised the two Hartman children. [49] Hartman's will stipulated that each child will receive their inheritance over several years after they turn 25. The total value of Hartman's estate was estimated at $1.23 million. [49] In accordance with Hartman's will, his body was cremated by Forest Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary, Glendale, California, and his ashes were scattered over Santa Catalina Island's Emerald Bay. [49] [57]

Response and legacy

NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer stated 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." [50] Guttenberg expressed shock at Hartman's death, and Steve Martin said he was "a deeply funny and very happy person." [50] Matt Groening called him "a master", [1] and director Joe Dante said, "He was one of those guys who was a dream to work with. I don't know anybody who didn't like him." [43] Dan Snierson of Entertainment Weekly concluded that Hartman was "the last person you'd expect to read about in lurid headlines in your morning paper" and "a decidedly regular guy, beloved by everyone he worked with." [1] In 2007, Entertainment Weekly ranked Hartman the 87th greatest television icon of all time, [58] and Maxim named Hartman the top Saturday Night Live performer of all time. [59]

Rehearsals for The Simpsons were cancelled on the day of Hartman's death as well as that night's performance by The Groundlings. [1] The season five premiere episode of NewsRadio, "Bill Moves On," finds Hartman's character, Bill McNeal, has died of a heart attack, while the other characters reminisce about his life. Lovitz joined the show in his place from the following episode. [29] A special episode of Saturday Night Live commemorating Hartman's work on the show aired on June 13, 1998. [60] Rather than substituting another voice actor, the writers of The Simpsons retired Hartman's characters, [35] and the season ten episode "Bart the Mother" (his final appearance on the show) was dedicated to him, [29] as was his final film, Small Soldiers . [61]

At the time of his death, Hartman was preparing to voice Zapp Brannigan, a character written specifically for him on Groening's second animated series Futurama . [62] Even though the role was specifically made for Hartman, he still insisted on auditioning and according to Groening, he 'nailed it'. After Hartman's death, Billy West took over the role of Brannigan. [62] Though executive producer David X. Cohen credits West with using his own take on the character, [63] West later said that he purposely tweaked Zapp's voice to better match Hartman's intended portrayal. [62] Hartman was also planning to appear with Lovitz in the indie film The Day of Swine and Roses, scheduled to begin production in August 1998. [1] and Hartman's brother, John Hartmann, published the album Flat TV in 2002. The album is a selection of comedy sketches recorded by Hartman in the 1970s that had been kept in storage until their release. Hartmann commented: "I'm putting this out there because I'm dedicating my life to fulfilling his dreams. This [album] is my brother doing what he loved." [64] In 2013, Flat TV was optioned by Michael "Ffish" Hemschoot's animation company Worker Studio for an animated adaptation. [65] [66] The deal came about after Michael T. Scott, a partner in the company, posted a hand-written letter he had received from Hartman in 1997 on the internet, leading to a correspondence between Scott and Paul Hartmann. [67]

In 2007, a campaign was started on Facebook by Alex Stevens and endorsed by Hartman's brother, Paul Hartmann, to have Hartman inducted to Canada's Walk of Fame. [68] [69] Amongst the numerous events to publicize the campaign, Ben Miner, of the Sirius XM Radio channel Laugh Attack, dedicated the month of April 2012 to Hartman. The campaign ended in success and Hartman was inducted to the Walk of Fame on September 22, 2012, with Paul accepting the award on his late brother's behalf. Hartman was also awarded the Cineplex Legends Award. [70] [71] In June 2013, it was announced that Hartman would receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was unveiled on August 26, 2014. [72] [73] Additionally, a special prize at the Canadian Comedy Awards was named for Hartman. Beginning with the 13th Canadian Comedy Awards in 2012, the Phil Hartman Award was awarded to "an individual who helps to better the Canadian comedy community." [74] In 2015, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Hartman as one of the top-ten greatest Saturday Night Live cast members throughout the show's forty-year history, coming in seventh on their list of all one-hundred-and-forty-one members. [75]



1978 Stunt Rock Assistant
1980 Skateboard Madness Narrator
1980 The Gong Show Movie Man at airport with gunCredited as Phil Hartmann
1980 Cheech & Chong's Next Movie Actor being filmed in the background
1982 Pandemonium ReporterCredited as Phil Hartmann
1984 Weekend Pass Joe Chicago
1985 Pee-wee's Big Adventure Reporter / Rodeo announcerAlso co-writer
1986 Last Resort Jean-Michel
1986 Jumpin' Jack Flash FredCredited as Phil E. Hartmann
1986 Three Amigos! SamCredited as Philip E. Hartmann
1987 Blind Date Ted Davis
1987 The Brave Little Toaster Jack Nicholson Air conditioner / Hanging lampVoices
1987 Amazon Women on the Moon Baseball announcerVoice
1989 Fletch Lives Bly manager
1989 How I Got Into College Bennedict
1990 Quick Change Hal Edison
1993 Loaded Weapon 1 Officer Davis
1993 CB4 Virgil Robinson
1993 Coneheads Marlax
1993 So I Married an Axe Murderer John "Vicky" Johnson
1994 Greedy Frank
1994 The Pagemaster Tom MorganVoice
1995 The Crazysitter The Salesman
1995 Houseguest Gary Young
1995 Stuart Saves His Family AnnouncerUncredited
1996 Sgt. Bilko Major Colin Thorn
1996 Jingle All the Way Ted Maltin
1998 Kiki's Delivery Service JijiEnglish dub
Posthumously released
1998 Small Soldiers Phil FimplePosthumously released
1998 Buster & Chauncey's Silent Night Chauncey [76] Voice
Posthumously released


1979 Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo Additional voices
1980The Six O'Clock FolliesUnnamed role
1981 The Pee-wee Herman Show Captain Carl / Monsieur LeCrocTelevision special; also writer
1981 The Smurfs Additional voices
1983 The Pop 'N Rocker Game Announcer
1983 The Dukes Various voices7 episodes
1984 Challenge of the GoBots Additional voices
1984 Magnum, P.I. NewsreaderEpisode: "The Legacy of Garwood Huddle"
1985 The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo Additional voiceEpisode: "It's a Wonderful Scoob"
1985 The Jetsons School Patrol robots / Executive Vice-PresidentVoices; Episode: "Boy George"
1986 Dennis the Menace Henry Mitchell / George Wilson / Various voices
1986–1987 Pee-wee's Playhouse Captain Carl6 episodes; also writer
1986–1994 Saturday Night Live Various characters155 episodes; also writer
1987 DuckTales Captain FryeVoice; Episode: "Scrooge's Pet"
1988 Fantastic Max Additional voices
1990 Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures Additional voicesEpisode: "One Sweet and Sour Chinese Adventure to Go"
1990 On the Television Various charactersEpisode: "M. Superior"
1990 TaleSpin Ace LondonVoice; Episode: "Mach One for the Gipper"
1990 Gravedale High Additional voices
1990 Tiny Toon Adventures OctaviusVoice; Episode: "Whale's Tales"
1991 Captain Planet and the Planeteers Dimitri the Russian Ambassador / TV ReporterVoices; Episode: "Mind Pollution"
1991 Empty Nest Tim CornellEpisode: "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?"
1991 Darkwing Duck PaddywhackVoice; Episode: "The Haunting of Mr. Banana Brain"
1991One Special VictoryMike RuttenTelevision film
1991–1998 The Simpsons Troy McClure / Lionel Hutz / Various voices52 episodes
1991–1993 Tom & Jerry Kids Calaboose CalVoice
1992 Fish Police Inspector C. BassVoice; Episode: "A Fish Out of Water"
1992 Parker Lewis Can't Lose Phil DiamondEpisode: "Lewis and Son"
1992 Eek! The Cat Monkeynaut #1 / Psycho BunnyVoices; 2 episodes
1993DaybreakMan in abstinence commercialUncredited
Television film
1993 Animaniacs Dan AnchormanVoice; Episode: "Broadcast Nuisance"
1993The Twelve Days of ChristmasAdditional voiceTelevision film
1993 The Larry Sanders Show HimselfEpisode: "The Stalker"
1994 How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Special Edition HostTV Short
1994 The Critic Various voicesEpisode: "Eyes on the Prize"
1995The Show Formerly Known as the Martin Short ShowVarious charactersTelevision special
1995 The John Larroquette Show Otto FriedlingEpisode: "A Moveable Feast"
1995 Night Stand with Dick Dietrick Gunther JohannEpisode: "Illegal Alien Star Search"
1995–1998 NewsRadio Bill McNeal75 episodes
1996 The Dana Carvey Show Larry King Episode: "The Mountain Dew Dana Carvey Show"
1996 Caroline in the City HostUncredited
Episode: "Caroline and the Letter"
1996 Gargoyles Poacher #1Voice; Episode: "Mark of the Panther"
1996 The Ren & Stimpy Show Announcer On Russian filmreel / Sid the ClownVoices; 2 episodes
1996 Seinfeld Man on phoneUncredited
Voice; Episode: "The Package"
1996, 1998 3rd Rock from the Sun Phillip / Randy2 episodes
1997 The Second Civil War President of the United States Television film
1999 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Game show hostVoice; Episode: "The Empress's Nightingale"
Posthumously aired

Video games

YearTitleVoice role
1997 Virtual Springfield Troy McClure / Lionel Hutz
1998 Blasto Captain Blasto

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