Creator / Phil Hartman

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Philip Edward "Phil" Hartman (September 24, 1948 – May 28, 1998) was a Canadian-born comedian and actor famous for starring on Saturday Night Live from 1986 to 1994,note  for his guest appearances on The Simpsons as incompetent attorney Lionel Hutz (who has a law office at the local mall called "I Can't Believe It's a Law Firm") and washed-up B-movie actor Troy McClure, and for starring as Bill McNeal on the sitcom NewsRadio.

Hartman has been consistently praised as one of SNL's best performers. His memorable celebrity impressions included Frank Sinatra, Charlton Heston, Ronald Reagan, Ed McMahon, Kirk Douglas, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Barbara Bush, and Bill Clinton (years before Darrell Hammond would also be famous for the impression).note  His original characters included Eugene the Anal-Retentive Chef (who also appeared as an anal-retentive carpenter and an anal-retentive sportsman) and The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. His ability to adapt to any performance and keep the cast working together earned him the nickname "Glue" from co-star Adam Sandler.

Hartman had a strained marital life. Having married twice and divorced both times just a few years later, he eventually wed Brynn Omdahl in 1987. However, his success became intimidating to Brynn, who sought increasing solace in drugs and entered rehab numerous times as Hartman continuously tried to help her break into acting. On May 27, 1998, their marriage reached a breaking point: Hartman and Brynn entered a heated argument over her drug addiction, with Hartman threatening to leave her (something neither of them had previously discussed or even considered) if she couldn't remain sober before eventually retiring to bed. That night, Brynn took a combination of cocaine and alcohol, entered her husband's bedroom, and shot him to death just before 3 A.M. on the morning of May 28. Three hours later, she killed herself.

The outpouring of sympathy was immense. Simpsons creator Matt Groening had Hartman's characters Hutz and McClure retired from the show (though those two characters did appear in some of the comic book stories), and named Futurama protagonist Phillip J. Fry in honor of Hartman, while Billy West took over as the voice of Zapp Brannigan (who was supposed to be voiced by Hartman). NewsRadio pressed on one more season, this time with his friend Jon Lovitz, before being cancelled, because as his castmates put it, "Phil would've wanted us to."

You may remember him from such films as...:

Phil Hartman provides examples of:

  • The Announcer: On Pop 'N Rocker Game in 1983-84, a rock themed game show hosted by Jon Bauman. Phil supposedly auditioned to take over for Johnny Olson on The Price Is Right as well.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: On the season 11 episode of SNL hosted by Paul Reubens (as his manchild character Pee-Wee Herman), Hartman played one of the Pilgrims in the "Pee-Wee Herman Thanksgiving Special" sketch. A year later, when Lorne was trying to fix SNL after the network threatened to cancel the show due to low ratings and bad reviews, Hartman became one of the new cast members hired.
  • Famous Last Words: On a technicality, at least. His final movie role before his tragic murder was providing the English voice of Jiji for the English dub of Studio Ghibli's Kiki's Delivery Service. In the middle of the film, Kiki starts losing contact to hearing Jiji speak to her. The last words that Jiji says before Kiki discovers that she can no longer understand him and Hartman's last words on film are "Kiki, can you hear me?!"

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