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Phil Hartman

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Philip Edward "Phil" Hartman (September 24, 1948 - May 28, 1998) was a Canadian born American actor and comedian. He was a recurring guest star on The Simpsons, frequently voicing Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure. He also voiced many one time characters. His characters were retired after his death in 1998.

Early life

Hartman was born Philip Edward Hartmann in Brantford, Ontario on September 24, 1948. He was one of 8 children to Roman Catholics Doris and Rupert Hartmann. Rupert was a building material salesman. When Hartman was 10, his family immigrated to Connecticut before moving to the West Coast, where he attended Westchester High School. They gained American citizenship in 1990. He went on to study art at Santa Monica City College, but he dropped out in 1969 to become a roadie for a rock band. He went on to studying graphic arts at California State University, Northridge in 1972. While there, Hartman created his own graphics arts business and he created over 40 album covers. He had his first television appearance in 1979 on The Dating Game. While working alone, Hartman amused himself with "flights of voice fantasies". Hartman started to develop his talent by attending evening comedy classes.


Early career and Pee-wee Herman

Hartman joined the improv comedy group The Groundlings in 1975 - while watching one of their performances and impulsively climbed on stage and joined in with the cast. He met Paul Reubens, and began collaborating with him. They created Pee-wee Herman, and developed the stage show, which also aired on HBO, The Pee-wee Herman Show. In the show, Hartman played Captain Carl, as well as in the children's show Pee-wee's Playhouse. He also co-wrote Pee-wee's Big Adventure, a film based on the character. He had a cameo as a news reporter. At this moment in time, Hartman considered quitting the acting business, due to limited opportunities. Pee-wee's Big Adventure opened up new possibillites for Hartman. After a creative fallout with Reubens, Hartman left Pee-wee Herman to pursue other roles.

During his time working on Pee-wee Herman, he had a number of voice-over roles, including shows such as The Smurfs, Challenge of GoBots and The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo. He also voiced Henry Mitchell and George Wilson in Dennis the Menace as well as providing voice-over for advertisements.

Saturday Night Live

In 1986, Hartman joined Saturday Night Live, as part of the cast and writing staff. He was known backstage as "the Glue". He was there for eight seasons, and became known for his impressions of over 70 characters including Frank Sinatra, Barbara Bush, Ronald Reagan and Ed McMahon. He was nominated for three Emmy's while on the show, and won one in 1989 for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.

His most famous and last impression on the show was Bill Clinton; he also did this on The Tonight Show. Later, in 1993, he met Clinton and said "I guess I owe you a few apologies", but Clinton showed good humor, a sent him a signed photo with "You're not the president, but you play one on TV. And you're OK, mostly." One of his most famous sketches as Clinton involved him visiting a McDonald's and explaining his policies by eating customers's food, namely explaining US intervention in Somalia as he explains how international food aid is ineffective to Somalia as it keeps getting intercepted by warlords. Clinton, pretending to be a warlord, takes bites out of McDonald's food. Hartman then explained that American troops would protect food shipments so it reaches the people who need it (but then takes one more bite of a cheeseburger).

Hartman left SNL in 1994, after almost all his co-stars left. He planned to leave in 1991, but was convinced to stay to raise his profile, and NBC persuaded him to stay by promising him his own show called The Phil Show. 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." The show was scrapped, as variety shows were too unpopular. He later revealed he was glad the show had been scrapped, because as executive producer and head writer he "would've been sweatin' blood each week trying to make it work."

Instead Hartman joined the cast of NBC's new sitcom NewsRadio, playing the smarmy anchor Bill McNeal. He received an Emmy nomination for the role and remained on the show until his death. Hartman also appeared in numerous films including Jingle All the Way, Sgt. Bilko and Houseguest. Another show Hartman had a guest role on was Third Rock from the Sun. He had starred on the final episode of the 1996-1997 season where he kidnaps one of the main characters which was supposed to be resolved in a cliffhanger, but his death made it impossible. As a result, the producers scrapped the season finale and reshot it with another plot. Phil Hartman's final movie was Small Soldiers, directed by Joe Dante. The film debuted after Hartman's death and a post-credits blooper reel was done dedicated in his memory.



Hartman was murdered by his third wife Brynn on May 28, 1998 at the age of 49. He was deeply mourned by many people after his death. Brynn and Phil had an argument; Hartman had threatened to leave her if she started her drug addiction again. While he slept, Brynn—while intoxicated and under the influence of cocaine—shot Phil twice, killing him at 3AM. Brynn drove to a friend's house, the home of Ron Douglas, and confessed her crime. The police were called. By the time the police had arrived Brynn had locked herself in a room and shot herself to death. Douglas and the two Hartman children were escorted out.

As a result of his death, many of Hartman's characters were no longer used, with a few given replacement actors. Bart the Mother was dedicated to his death as it was his final appearance ever. Later on Matt Groening would go to create Futurama, giving the previously unnamed protagonist Fry the full name of Philip J. Fry in honor of Hartman. Groening also said he had created the character of Zapp Brannigan expressly for the purpose of Phil Hartman, who had been planning to voice that character when Futurama was still in the breadboard stage of production.

External links

Cast and Crew
Dan Castellaneta | Julie Kavner | Nancy Cartwright | Yeardley Smith | Hank Azaria | Harry Shearer
Also Starring
Pamela Hayden | Tress MacNeille | Maggie Roswell | Russi Taylor | Karl Wiedergott | Christopher Collins | Doris Grau | Jo Ann Harris | Marcia Mitzman Gaven
Special Guest Voices
Kelsey Grammer | Maurice LaMarche | Joe Mantegna | Marcia Wallace | Greg Berg | Albert Brooks | Phil Hartman | Jan Hooks | Jane Kaczmarek | Jon Lovitz | Frank Welker

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