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Philip Edward "Phil" Hartman (September 24, 1948 - May 28, 1998) was a Canadian-American actor, voice actor, comedian, screenwriter, and graphic artist. He was a frequent guest star on The Simpsons, voicing Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure. He also voiced many one-time characters. His characters were retired after his death in 1998 and now only make non-speaking cameo appearances. He also is the most common male guest star on The Simpsons. He also voiced many minor characters like Lyle Lanley, The Cable Guy, and Joey.

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 possibilities 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, though he cameoed on the season 11 (1985-1986 season) episode hosted by Pee-Wee Herman on the "Pee-Wee Herman's Thanksgiving Special" sketch. Hartman's hiring, alongside hiring Dana Carvey (who originally was supposed to be hired for the disastrous sixth season in 1980), Kevin Nealon, Victoria Jackson, and Jan Hooks (who twice auditioned for the show's tenth and 11th season and wasn't picked); getting rid of the failed 1985-1986 cast (which included such now-famous faces as Joan Cusack, Damon Wayans, Robert Downey, Jr., Anthony Michael Hall, and Randy Quaid, as well as Terry Sweeney and Danitra Vance, the earliest examples of Lorne Michaels hiring cast members who were openly on the LGBTQ+ spectrum), and retaining Jon Lovitz, Nora Dunn, Dennis Miller, Al Franken, and A. Whitney Brown marked a return to form for Saturday Night Live after five years (1980-1985) of struggling in the ratings and critics writing the show off as being hopeless following the departure of the original "Not Ready for Primetime" cast.

Hartman was on SNL for eight seasons, and became known for being "The Glue" that holds many sketches together and 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' 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).

Lionel Hutz

Lionel Hutz, whom the late Hartman voiced

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 til his death. Hartman also appeared in numerous films including Jingle All the Way, Sgt. Bilko and Houseguest. One of Hartman's last television guest roles was in the third season finale of 3rd Rock from the Sun (in 1998), in which he kidnaps one of the main characters, Harry Solomon (French Stewart); this plotline was supposed to be resolved in a cliffhanger at the start of the show's fourth season, but his death prompted producers to scrap the original resolution in favor of having Harry be rescued by his family after being sold into a freak show by Hartman's character. Phil Hartman's final film roles were in the 1997 live-action/CGI action comedy Small Soldiers (directed by Joe Dante) and Disney's 1998 English dubbing of Kiki's Delivery Service, (directed by Hayao Miyazaki). Both films were released after Hartman's death, and a post-credits blooper reel featured in the former was dedicated in his memory.

Troy McClure

Troy McClure, another character Hartman voiced

Working on The Simpsons[]

Hartman first started working on The Simpsons on the episode "Bart Gets Hit by a Car" as Lionel Hutz. It was originally planned to be a one-time appearance, but Hartman really enjoyed working on The Simpsons and the staff, who enjoyed working with him in return, wrote additional parts for him, such as replacing Dan Castellaneta as Troy McClure, as well as voicing one-time characters like Lyle Lanley. Matt Groening said he "took Hartman for granted because he nailed the joke every time" and that his voice acting could provide "the maximum amount of humor" with any line he was given.

Other Phil Hartman info[]

Hartman voiced the Chocolate Bar in a 1996 M&M's commercial.



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 about Brynn and her past with drugs; Hartman had threatened to leave her if she started her drug addiction again. While he slept, Brynn - while drunk and under the influence of cocaine - shot Phil three times, killing him just before 3:00 AM. Brynn drove to a friend's house, the home of Ron Douglas, and confessed to her crime and another one. The police were called. By the time the police had arrived Brynn had locked herself in the bedroom and killed herself several minutes later. Douglas and the two Hartman children were escorted out.

As a result of his death, many of Hartman's characters are 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. He at one point expressed interest in making a live-action film about Troy McClure. Most of the staff were enthusiastic and offered to help. Hartman was even prepared to buy the film rights himself to make it happen.

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