(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 impressionnote
). His original characters included Eugene the Anal-Retentive Chef (who also appeared as an anal-retentive carpenter and an anal-rententive sportsman) and The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer
. His ability to adapt to any performance earned him the nickname "Glue" from co-star Adam Sandler
On May 28, 1998, while he was still sleeping, Hartman was shot to death by his wife Brynn, who was under the influence of drugs and killed herself shortly afterward.
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...:
Tropes applying to Phil Hartman:
- Dead Artists Are Better: Has gained greater esteem due to the horrific nature of his death.
- 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.
- He Also Did: Hartman was also an artist who worked with rock groups. He designed the logo for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, as well as album covers for America, Poco, and The Firesign Theatre.
- 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 the last words of Phil Hartman on film are "Kiki, can you hear me?!"
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: He played many Jerk Ass characters (often for laughs), but was one of the gentlest souls around, which makes his sudden murder even more tragic.
- The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer: Trope Namer.
- What Could Have Been: He was going to play Zapp Brannigan on Futurama, but died before working on it. As mentioned above, Groening gave Fry the first name "Phillip" in honor of Hartman, and Billy West based his portrayal of Brannigan on Hartman's mannerisms.
- He was supposed to provide the voice of Disco Stu in the Simpsons episode "Two Bad Neighbors", but when the animators needed to do a model change, Hartman was unavailable, so Hank Azaria took the part.
- He wanted to do a live-action film about Troy McClure, and while it never got beyond enthusiasm, many of the Simpsons' creative staff admitted it would have been fun to do.