Top Saturday Night Live performer of all time, Phil Hartman was a comedian, actor, graphic artist, and screenwriter who endeared himself to many prior to his demise in 1998. He enacted and equally voiced memorable characters in TV shows and movies. He became a household name in America following his performance of more than seventy different characters on the late-night TV variety show, Saturday Night Live. Hartman was also known for his graphic design works, having masterminded the album covers of many musical bands. His untimely exit left a huge void in the comedy community as he left an indelible mark in the entertainment industry. Following his contributions, an award has been named after him; Phil Hartman’s Award which is given to individuals who make notable contributions in the Canadian Comedy Community.
Phil Hartman’s Early Life
One of the greatest SNL cast members, Hartman was born to his parents, Rupert Loebig and Doris Marguerite Hartmann as Philip Edward Hartmann. He made his arrival into the world in Brantford, Ontario, Canada on 24th September 1948. He was born into a Catholic family and was raised along with his seven other siblings.
At the age of ten, his family emigrated from Canada to the United States and made their first abode in Lewiston, Maine. They later moved to Connecticut before finally residing in the West Coast. Phil Hartman was an alumnus of Westchester High School. He briefly attended Santa Monica City College before quitting school to join a road crew in 1969. A few years later, he enrolled at California State University situated in Northridge where he studied Graphic Arts.
Phil Hartman first began his career by venturing into graphic designing. He designed more than forty album covers for musical bands such as the country-rock band, Poco. He then started attending evening comedy lessons organised by the improvisational and sketch comedy troupe, The Groundlings in 1975. Three years later, he made his first cinematic appearance in the movie, Stunt Rock and then became a cast member of The Groundlings the following year.
He had a cameo role in the 1980 comedy film, Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie and later appeared as a reporter in Pandemonium. He also had a minor role in the adventure comedy movie, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure of which he also contributed as a screenwriter. Then from 1986 to 1996, the comic artist was cast in more than fifteen movies which included Last Resort as Jean- Michel, Fletch Lives as Bly manager, How I Got into College as Bennedict, So I Married an Axe Murderer as John “Vicky” Johnson and Sgt. Bilko as Major Colin Thorn. He also played voice roles in movies and series such as Amazon Women on the Moon, The Brave Little Toaster, The Dukes, The Jetsons, Dennis the Menace, Tom & Jerry Kids, among others.
From 1991 to 1998, Phil Hartman voiced various characters including Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz in 52 episodes of the animated TV series, The Simpsons. He actually became a TV star as a result of his extraordinary display on Saturday Night Live where he performed more than seventy different characters in 155 episodes of the show, he became immensely popular for his impressions which included Bill Clinton and Barbara Bush.
Additionally, Hartman was also famous for being one of the stars of the sitcom TV series, NewsRadio. He portrayed the character of Bill McNeal, a radio news anchor in 75 episodes of the sitcom. During his lifetime, the brilliant comic artist was a recipient of Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program alongside other writers of SNL. After his demise, he was inaugurated into Canada Walk of Fame and equally received a Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.
How He Died and Who Killed Him
Phill was tragically murdered in 1988 by his own wife Brynn Omdahl, a former model whom he met on a blind date and married in 1987. Soon after the marriage, the couple began having problems due to his wife’s drug addiction. On 27th May, 1998, the pair had a serious misunderstanding spawning from Brynn’s physical abuse of their daughter while drunk. This led to Phil Hartman threatening to leave the marriage if his wife continued making use of drugs or physically abuse any of their kids.
In the early hours of the next day, Phil Hartman’s wife heavily intoxicated murdered him in his bedroom with three gunshots. After confessing to her friends about the murder of which they later confirmed, she locked herself up in her room and there, she took her own life. The actor’s body was later cremated and his remains were dispersed over Santa Catalina Island’s Emerald Bay.
Phil Hartman married thrice during his lifetime. He entered his first marriage with Gretchen Lewis in 1970 and they got separated a few years later. He then married for the second time, Lisa Strain in 1982 and divorced in 1985.