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They're gonna see the real Phil Hartman tonight!
May 31, 2013 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Actor, comedian, screenwriter, and graphic artist Phil Hartman died fifteen years ago this week. The Vulture and Legacy.com look back at some of his most memorable characters. KCAL talks to John Hartman about his brother's death and plans to develop his posthumously-released comedy album Phil Hartman's Flat TV as an animated feature. posted by prize bull octorok (75 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's 3:15 and means it's time for The Real Deal With Bill McNeal.
posted by zachlipton at 10:52 AM on May 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


I know it's just symbolic, but it's totally insane that Phil Hartman doesn't have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
posted by scody at 10:54 AM on May 31, 2013 [22 favorites]


Not "died"; "murdered". Domestic violence is fucked.
posted by barnacles at 10:57 AM on May 31, 2013 [46 favorites]


.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:58 AM on May 31, 2013


They mention Captain Carl in the bonus link, but I think it is important to note that Hartman coscripted the original Pee Wee Herman stage show and is credited as the first writer for Pee Wee's Big Adventure. He's one of the essential and original creative forces behind Pee Wee, and I don't think he gets credited with it enough.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:58 AM on May 31, 2013 [20 favorites]


I had no idea about the album covers. A man of many talents.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:00 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


He was truly a great artist. Gone way too soon.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:00 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fuck Andy Dick (that is all).
posted by The Whelk at 11:00 AM on May 31, 2013 [11 favorites]


Jesus, he was a terrible loss. One of the all-time great comedic talents snuffed out.

In memoriam, here's Phil Hartman as a suspiciously sharp Ronald Reagan in one of my favorite SNL sketches.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:03 AM on May 31, 2013 [17 favorites]


I have always loved Phil. At times, I like to think that Al Franken is picking up where Hartman's life left off, carrying out his dream to be a Senator and do his small part to change the world...then I remember that Phil was Canadian, like all great Americans.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 11:04 AM on May 31, 2013 [27 favorites]


Whenever I think "genius of the 1990s taken from us too soon" I always think Phil Hartman, not Kurt Cobain. Somehow that continually surprises me, but the thought never changes.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:04 AM on May 31, 2013 [18 favorites]


To this day I can't sing a Christmas carol without thinking of Tonto, Tarzan, and Frankenstein.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:06 AM on May 31, 2013 [25 favorites]


I am so relieved to know that I am not the only one who thinks "Away. In Manger. No crib. For bed." when the grocery store muzak turns syrupy at Christmas. (And then I always start laughing inexplicably in the produce aisle, and people back away, and DAMN YOU PHIL HARTMAN FOR BEING SO FUNNY!)
posted by scody at 11:08 AM on May 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


I am so relieved to know that I am not the only one who thinks "Away. In Manger. No crib. For bed."

FIRE BAD!!

(One of the very rare times where he lost it on stage. My personal favorite.)
posted by Melismata at 11:12 AM on May 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


We've been introducing our kids to classic Simpsons' episodes recently (seasons 4-8), and man, he was soooo good at everything he did.

"Hi, I'm Troy McClure. You ay remember me from such such films as “‘P’ is for Psycho” and “The President’s Neck is Missing.”

The president's neck isn't all that's missing.
posted by mosk at 11:14 AM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my BMW... and run off into the hills, or wherever... Sometimes when I get a message on my fax machine, I wonder: "Did little demons get inside and type it?" I don't know! My primitive mind can't grasp these concepts. But there is one thing I do know - when a man like my client slips and falls on a sidewalk in front of a public library, then he is entitled to no less than two million in compensatory damages, and two million in punitive damages. Thank you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:14 AM on May 31, 2013 [37 favorites]


Phil Hartman was really refreshing. As Bill McNeal he was Colbert before there was Colbert. Anytime you read an event that could have been sour, he somehow rose above it with perspective and good nature that are all too rare.

A funny man and, by appearances and reputation, a decent human being. What a loss.
posted by mazola at 11:21 AM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


here's Phil Hartman as a suspiciously sharp Ronald Reagan in one of my favorite SNL sketches.

From that clip, the countries mentioned are Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. Amazing how little has changed since the 80s.
posted by stopgap at 11:24 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


He and Bill Clinton were the best confluence of SNL sketch actor and political persona until Sarah Palin and Tina Fey came along.

"That's why you're the judge, and I'm the...law-talkin' guy!"
posted by dry white toast at 11:25 AM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I grew up without television, and I remember hearing about Hartman's death long before I knew the man's work, but I've since done my best to catch up and, man, Phil Hartman, you were one of the good ones.
posted by gauche at 11:27 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


He and Bill Clinton were the best confluence of SNL sketch actor and political persona until Sarah Palin and Tina Fey came along.

Sorry, disagree there...Dana Carvey and George Bush.

But Phil and Clinton (and Reagan) are a close second.
posted by Melismata at 11:28 AM on May 31, 2013


Do not taunt happy fun ball.
posted by The Bellman at 11:29 AM on May 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Both lists are missing Lionel Hutz- "Oh, that's a typo. It should read 'No, Money Down.' Also that Bar Association logo shouldn't be there."



I still say "intercepted by warlords" whenever I steal a fry from someone.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:30 AM on May 31, 2013 [13 favorites]


Admiral Haddock: Whenever I think "genius of the 1990s taken from us too soon" I always think Phil Hartman, not Kurt Cobain. Somehow that continually surprises me, but the thought never changes.

I definitely felt Phil Hartman more than Kurt Cobain. When a guy writes a song called "I Hate Myself and Want to Die", that takes most of the surprise out of the ensuing 12-gauge haircut.
posted by dr_dank at 11:31 AM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Woah -- I never knew about the design thing. The cover for Poco's Legend is so iconic, I've flipped past it so many times in the bins and I never had any idea the genuis behind it.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:31 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fuck Andy Dick (that is all).

Here's the backstory on that, courtesy of wikipedia.

On July 17, 2007, at the Laugh Factory comedy club in Los Angeles, Dick was in an altercation with his former NewsRadio co-star Jon Lovitz, who claimed that, a year earlier, Dick had approached Lovitz at a restaurant and said, "I put the Phil Hartman hex on you; you're the next one to die," and demanded an apology from Dick. Lovitz has accused Dick of re-introducing Hartman's wife (Brynn Omdahl) to cocaine, who had a relapse, killed Hartman while he slept in his Encino, California home, and then shot herself.[49] When Lovitz joined the cast of NewsRadio as Hartman's replacement in its fifth and final season, he told Dick: "I wouldn't be here now if you hadn't given Brynn that cocaine."

Sheesh. I miss Phil Hartman's craft very much.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:31 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still crack up thinking about Hartman's Bill Clinton offering Boris Yeltsen the Indecent Proposal deal.
posted by COBRA! at 11:32 AM on May 31, 2013


I suppose here would be the place to ask -- I once saw a movie, some art piece, where Phil voiced over children acting. It was mind-blowing. I had no idea he'd done such a thing, and I just happened upon it going through Place Pompidou in Paris. Anyone else know what I'm talking about?

I miss you, Phil. Terribly.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:34 AM on May 31, 2013


"Hello everyone, I am a park ranger and I will be leading you on the tour. All of the park rangers here at Alcatraz were at one time guards, myself included. My name is John Johnson, but everyone here calls me Vicky. Will you please follow me."

I miss Phil Hartman...
posted by MeatheadBrokeMyChair at 11:35 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had no idea Fry was named in honor of Phil Hartman. That makes my eyes well up a little.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:35 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there any evidence, beyond the Lovitz-Dick feud, that he was actually involved? (Not defending him - just curious).
posted by quodlibet at 11:40 AM on May 31, 2013


Both lists are missing Lionel Hutz

Two of the three lists mention Lionel Hutz.

"I move for a bad court thingy."
posted by brain_drain at 11:42 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, he was the cat in the English dubbed version of Kiki's Delivery Service.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:43 AM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's why you're the judge and I'm the law talking guy.

.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:48 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, it’s been that long? One of the weird things about living in Los Angeles was that that all happened in my neighborhood. It was weird somehow sadder to see it on TV, "Really, the restaurant on the corner?"
posted by bongo_x at 11:48 AM on May 31, 2013


Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer was the best of them all. Plays it with just the right touch of insincerity so you know he's faking. Like the character has been doing it for years and isn't putting the effort in to excise the references to his BMW or to avoid saying "or whatever" at the end of his spiel.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:51 AM on May 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


Every time I read a terrible answer to a legal question on AskMe, I read it in Lionel Hutz's voice.
posted by elizardbits at 11:51 AM on May 31, 2013 [14 favorites]


In memoriam, here's Phil Hartman as a suspiciously sharp Ronald Reagan in one of my favorite SNL sketches.

Didn't he also do a Bizzarro World Reagan? I have a vague recollection of lines like, "It's a crisis, Mr. President! Fall asleep!"
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:51 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not only do we remember Troy McClure from many filmstrips, but as the human in "Stop the Planet of the Apes: I Want to Get Off."
It's the part he was born to play, baby!

I hate every ape I see, from chimpan-a to chimpanzee...

Not a week has gone by where I haven't missed Phil Hartman. His work on SNL, the Simpsons, Pee-Wee, film, television, late night appearances, it was touchstone material. I really wonder how his interpretation of Zapp Brannigan would differ, or what his Romney impression would have been like.

Sorely missed.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:04 PM on May 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Phil Hartman (and yes, various writers—but that voice!) was a major contributor to my family's 90s lexicon. "Perfect cane weather" is still an all-purpose greeting / standard response to any vaguely meteorological question.

One of my favourite sketches, apparently not on Hulu, is the On Broadway sketch, where a young Ross Treadway deals with trying to fill Yul Brynner's shoes. It's on the Best Of DVD, which is of course wall-to-wall awesomeness.

After all these years, still a tragic and depressing loss. The DVD commentary on season 5 NewsRadio opener "Bill Moves On" is about as rough as you'd expect, but it's worth a listen.
posted by Lorin at 12:07 PM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Correlation is not causation, but I don't think it's complete coincidence that the decline of The Simpsons from golden-age genius to uneven mediocrity dates to around the same time the show lost Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure forever.

Also this:
"His nickname was 'the Glue,'" says SNL creator Lorne Michaels. "He kind of held the show together. He gave to everybody and demanded very little. He was very low-maintenance."
Probably not another actor who gave me as many great laughs in the 1990s as Phil Hartman did. Terrible loss.
posted by gompa at 12:12 PM on May 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


His SNL audition is fun to watch. It gets especially good at the 8:30 mark, when John Lovitz (who was already a cast member at the time) joins him onstage to assist with some hilarious scene work.

My favorite Phil Hartman SNL sketch is the parody of Walt Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, in which he plays Kirk Douglas's Ned Land as a befuddled idiot who can't for the life of him grasp the meaning of the word 'league'. (I can't find any video, but you can read the transcript here.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:12 PM on May 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


This was among my very favorite Phil Hartman SNL sketches: The Sinatra Group. "Once more round, pal, it's all pops and buzzes from here."
posted by MoonOrb at 12:18 PM on May 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


The bestest tribute to Phil Hartman, in my mind, is Zapp Brannigan.
posted by ian1977 at 12:21 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


As genius as Hartman was, I'm a little uncomfortable crediting him with the awesome Simpson's writing in such episodes as Monorail.
posted by DU at 12:22 PM on May 31, 2013


Rats, no video for Greenhilly, where Hartman and Alec Baldwin ended up locking lips.
posted by Ber at 12:23 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seriously? It's been 15 years? I feel like it was just yesterday. Probably because I still see/hear Hartman in so much entertainment I take it. Damn.
posted by aclevername at 12:24 PM on May 31, 2013


I believe Monorail was written by Coco O'Brian. 100%
posted by QueerAngel28 at 12:24 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


/me favorites every reference in this thread. What was the best? ALL OF IT.

.
posted by whuppy at 12:26 PM on May 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Bill: I remember we used to have what they called key parties. You see, everyone put all their car keys into a big bowl, and at the end of the night you take a key out at random and then...
Dave: And then?
Bill: And then you get to take somebody else's car home.
Dave: I believe the point of those parties was to take somebody else's wife home.
Bill: I guess that's why they never invited me back.
posted by porn in the woods at 12:27 PM on May 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


As genius as Hartman was, I'm a little uncomfortable crediting him with the awesome Simpson's writing in such episodes as Monorail.

Not sure if that was directed at me, but I wasn't crediting him with the writing, merely pointing out that he was an essential piece of the comedic puzzle (and somewhat tongue-in-cheekily suggesting his absence precipitated the decline, which in fact began around Season 8 or so when Hartman was still part of the cast).

I can't find the original NPR transcript, but Hartman's Wikipedia page quotes Matt Groening saying Hartman "nailed the joke every time" and got "the maximum amount of humor" out of his lines. It's more in that vein. Put another way, yes, it took a brilliant writing team to conceive Lionel Hutz and have him take on the Simpsons as clients thusly:
Lionel Hutz: Mrs. Simpson, you're in luck. Your sexual harassment suit is exactly what I need to help rebuild my shattered practice. Care to join me in a belt of scotch?

Marge: It's 9:30 in the morning.

Lionel Hutz: Yeah, but I haven't slept in days.
Great material, as Conan once said. But what makes this a gag for the ages is Hartman's voice-acting -- the offhand "care to join me in a belt of scotch?," the almost boastful tone on "I haven't slept in days." Those glory days of The Simpsons were always much more than the sum of their parts, and Hartman was a major force multiplier.
posted by gompa at 12:32 PM on May 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


when he was killed I was surprised by how sad I was. I had no idea I liked Phil Harman that much. His washed up movie actor character was comedy gold.

The introduction by John Lovett of the segment devoted to Hartman on the anniversary special was touching. Lovett barely kept it together long enough to get through his short script.
posted by zzazazz at 12:37 PM on May 31, 2013


“Mr. Simpson, the state bar forbids me from promising you a big cash settlement. But, just between you and me, I promise you a big cash settlement.”
posted by 445supermag at 12:38 PM on May 31, 2013


Hartman was a major force multiplier.

Well said.
posted by Lord Dimwit Flathead The Excessive at 12:38 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really wonder how his interpretation of Zapp Brannigan would differ, or what his Romney impression would have been like.

I often wonder: if he hadn't been killed, would Phil Hartman have played Walter White or Saul Goodman?
posted by macadamiaranch at 12:43 PM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


From teh wiki: Because of his close friendship with SNL associate Jan Hooks, Brynn joked on occasion that Hooks and Hartman were married "on some other level"

I think that's probably true. I remember reading a passage in the oral history of SNL, where they had a scene together, and when it had ended and they were offstage, Hartman complimented Hooks and her performance by admitting "you gave me the biggest boner".

Or a compliment as Hooks took it, and I understood it. Such is my love and admiration for Hartman that it never occured to me for years that that could have been taken as sexual harassment.

And now whenever I come across the word 'boner', I hear it in Phil's voice. This gives me enormous pleasure each time.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:48 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hartman's death is one of two that is listed as a factor in the Simpsons decline in Zombie Simpsons, a fairly well-researched article/rant on the internet about where the show ran into problems. (The other death listed is story editor and occasional voice Doris Grau.)

I remember they had an SNL anniversary show not long after Hartman's death, and Jan Hooks introduced a piece that they did. She was barely able to keep it together, and I'm misting up a little just thinking about it.

And oh man, thank you, Ber, for mentioning Greenhilly, one of my favorite sketches as well.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:07 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Who is this Lionel Hutz you people keep talking about? Are you sure you don't mean Miguel Sanchez?
posted by ckape at 1:13 PM on May 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


15 years? Seriously?

Strangely enough, I remember where I was when I heard: In a loaner-cubicle on (I think) the 7th floor of the building where Ziff-Davis had its Cambridge office. It sticks in my memory because it's the earliest example I'm conscious of where the news spread far and wee on the 'net.
posted by lodurr at 1:20 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did somebody say sassy?
posted by 4ster at 1:35 PM on May 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


I know I've posted this here before, but it bears repeating. He was great even when he wasn't in the foreground. Watch him in the background of the Mr. Belvedere Fan Club sketch. Absolute comic genius.
posted by jocelmeow at 1:47 PM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]




When I passed the bar exam, my wife made me a shadowbox featuring Bart and Lionel Hutz, with their exchange:

Bart: Mr. Hutz, when I grow up, I want to be lawyer just like you.
Hutz: Good for you son. If there's one thing America needs, it's more lawyers. Can you imagine a world without lawyers?

Here it is, right next to me on the desk at work.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:22 PM on May 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


I often wonder: if he hadn't been killed, would Phil Hartman have played Walter White or Saul Goodman?

Note to self: Start working on alternate-dimension travel right fucking now.
posted by Etrigan at 3:00 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


A little club soda will get that out.

Howard Plants Tulips And Chrysanthemums Every Sunday Morning.

And lastly, click for the 'I'm Bill McNeal", stay for the wacky antics of a drunken Mr. James.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:05 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Phil Hartman would make an excellent Patchface or someone from Game of Thrones. Lord of McNeal, after all.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:19 PM on May 31, 2013


Two of my favorite SNL sketches ever--maybe the two most favorite, since they're usually the ones that come to mind first when I think of my favorite sketches--are the aforementioned "Reagan Mastermind" sketch, in which Hartman flips effortlessly between the familiar caricature of the genial, dotty Reagan and the Bond-villain version that uses his acting skills to cover for his evil, and the one he did as Hannibal Lecter's cellmate. Lecter was played by Jeremy Irons, who was actually offered the part before Anthony Hopkins, and Hartman is his aggressive career criminal roommate, Mace (who would appear again at least once) who of course is almost immediately psychologically dissected by Lecter. I don't want to spoil the punchline, in case you ever get to see it (it doesn't seem to be online), but it involves a little face painted on Mace's hand. It is a thing of beauty.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:21 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


A little club soda will get that out.

LIAR!
posted by Ghidorah at 8:39 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Every year on the opening day of the baseball season I find myself thinking, "I'm Bill McNeal -- on crack! I like boys!"
posted by aaronetc at 8:55 PM on May 31, 2013


Phil Hartman lived in Encino?
posted by benbenson at 7:08 AM on June 1, 2013


I still get sad every time I come across something that he was is. I remember 5 years ago being in line for the Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) and Phil's voice was used in the pre-show. It was wonderful to hear him but also so sad that he isn't with us any more.

.
posted by mmascolino at 8:05 AM on June 1, 2013


I was 16 when he died and like many here I was completely taken aback by how genuinely saddened I was at the news. Truly one of those didn't fully appreciate until they were gone moments. I'm still saddened when I think about his death.

One of the greats for sure.
posted by Lithopedian at 11:40 AM on June 1, 2013


>> He and Bill Clinton were the best confluence of SNL sketch actor and political persona until Sarah Palin and Tina Fey came along.

Sorry, disagree there...Dana Carvey and George Bush.

But Phil and Clinton (and Reagan) are a close second.


Carvey's Bush was great, but he wasn't really doing Bush. The voice and mannerisms were so far removed from the actual president that if Carvey were doing that impression without the Oval Office set behind him, most people wouldn't necessarily think he was being Bush Sr. In Carvey's defense, he was hilarious, and Bush Sr. was such a bland WASP with so little personality that the only way to get humor out of it would have been to take things up to 11.

On the other hand, Hartman totally channeled Clinton when playing him. There was a sketch in 1992 in which Clinton makes an impromptu stop in a McDonald's to chat with ordinary folk about his policies and also eats everyone's food. Hartman and the writers nailed Clinton's ability to connect with anyone and be the smartest person in the room--we saw that again in his DNC speech last year--and his vice, which is an weak ability to resist easy temptations.

Sans Hartman, comedic depictions of Clinton usually reduced him to a horndog--which he certainly was, but that's not all he was--because sex jokes are easy. I may be in the minority in that I never found the SNL did impeachment-era stuff funny with Hammond doing Clinton (and never getting down Clinton's people skills) Goodman doing Linda Tripp (which was incredibly mean).

It's also why there were lots of people doing impressions of George W. Bush, but none of them are considered iconic. Because everyone was just playing a dumb guy with a sort of Dubya voice. Dumb people jokes are as easy as sex jokes, so no one really bothered to analyze W. as a person. Hartman did that with TWO presidents.
posted by riruro at 3:56 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


.

I can't believe it's been 15 years. Talk about someone taken from us too soon.
posted by SisterHavana at 5:29 PM on June 1, 2013


He and Bill Clinton were the best confluence of SNL sketch actor and political persona until Sarah Palin and Tina Fey came along.
...
Sorry, disagree there...Dana Carvey and George Bush.

I really loved when Bob Dole and Norm's impression were both on stage.

Anyway, yes, a terrible loss. Cannot believe it's been 15 years already.

.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:00 AM on June 3, 2013


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