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  • Real name : Philip Edward Hartman
  • Date of birth : 24/09/1948
  • Place of death : California
  • Date of death : 28/05/1998

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  • Hartman Phil

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Phil Hartman (1948)

Philip Edward Hartman

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  Summary  

Philip Edward "Phil" Hartman (September 24, 1948– May 28, 1998; Hartmann) was a Canadian-American actor, comedian, screenwriter, and graphic artist. Born in Brantford, Ontario, Hartman and his family moved to the United States when he was 10. After graduating from California State University, Northridge, with a degree in graphic arts, he designed album covers for bands like Poco and America. Feeling the need for a more creative outlet, Hartman joined the comedy group The Groundlings in 1975 and there helped comedian Paul Reubens develop his character Pee-wee Herman. Hartman co-wrote the screenplay for the film Pee-wee's Big Adventure and made recurring appearances on Reubens' show Pee-wee's Playhouse.

Hartman became famous in the late 1980s when he joined the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. He won fame for his impressions, particularly of President Bill Clinton, and he stayed on the show for eight seasons. Called “the Glue” for his ability to hold the show together and help other cast members, Hartman won a Primetime Emmy Award for his SNL work in 1989. In 1995, after scrapping plans for his own variety show, he starred as Bill McNeal in the NBC sitcom NewsRadio. He also had frequent roles on The Simpsons as Lionel Hutz, Troy McClure, and others, and appeared in the films Houseguest, Sgt. Bilko, Jingle All the Way, and Small Soldiers.

Hartman had been divorced twice before he married Brynn Omdahl in 1987; the couple had two children together. However, their marriage was fractured, due in part to Brynn's drug use. On May 28, 1998, Brynn shot and killed her husband while he slept in their Encino, Los Angeles, home, then committed suicide several hours later. In the weeks following his death, Hartman was celebrated in a wave of tributes. Dan Snierson of Entertainment Weekly opined that Hartman was "the last person you'd expect to read about in lurid headlines in your morning paper...a decidedly regular guy, beloved by everyone he worked with".

  Biography  

 early life
Hartman was born Philip Edward Hartmann (later dropping the final "n") in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, on September 24, 1948. He was the fourth of eight children of Doris and Rupert Hartmann. His parents were Roman Catholic, and his father was a salesman specializing in building materials. As the middle child, Hartman found affection hard to earn. He stated: "I suppose I didn't get what I wanted out of my family life, so I started seeking love and attention elsewhere." Hartman's family moved to the United States when he was ten years old, gaining American citizenship in 1990. The family first lived in Connecticut, and later moved to the West Coast a few years later. There, Hartman attended Westchester High School and frequently acted as the class clown.

After graduating, Hartman studied art at Santa Monica City College, dropping out in 1969 to become a roadie with a rock band. He returned to school in 1972, this time studying graphic arts at California State University, Northridge. While there he developed his own graphic arts business, which created over 40 album covers for bands including Poco and America, as well as the logo for Crosby, Stills & Nash. In the late 1970s, Hartman made his first television appearance on an episode of The Dating Game; he won, but was stood up by his date.

 career
 Early career (1975–1985)
Working alone as a graphic artist, Hartman frequently amused himself with "flights of voice fantasies". Eventually he felt he needed a more social outlet and developed this talent by attending evening comedy classes. He joined the California-based improvisational comedy group The Groundlings in 1975 at the age of 27—while watching one of the troupe's performances, Hartman impulsively decided to climb on stage and join the cast. Hartman met comedian Paul Reubens and the two became friends, often collaborating on writing and comedic material. Together they created the character Pee-wee Herman and developed The Pee-wee Herman Show, a stage performance which also aired on HBO in 1981. Hartman played Captain Carl on The Pee-wee Herman Show and returned in the role for the children's show Pee-wee's Playhouse. Reubens and Hartman made cameos in the 1980 film Cheech & Chong's Next Movie. Hartman co-wrote the script of the 1985 feature film Pee-wee's Big Adventure and had a cameo as a reporter. Although he had considered quitting acting at the age of 36 due to limited opportunities, the success of Pee-wee's Big Adventure brought new possibilities and changed his mind. After a creative falling-out with Reubens, Hartman left the Pee-Wee Herman project to pursue other roles.

In addition to his work with Reubens, Hartman recorded a number of voice-over roles. These included appearances on The Smurfs, Challenge of the GoBots, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, and voicing characters Henry Mitchell and George Wilson on Dennis the Menace. Additionally Hartman developed a strong persona providing voice-overs for advertisements.

 Saturday Night Live (1986–1994)

After appearing in the 1986 films Jumpin' Jack Flash and ¡Three Amigos!, Hartman joined the cast and writing staff of NBC's variety show Saturday Night Live . He told the Los Angeles Times, "I wanted to do because I wanted to get the exposure that would give me box-office credibility so I can write movies for myself." In his eight seasons with the show Hartman became known for his impressions, and performed as over 70 different characters. These included Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Ed McMahon, Barbara Bush, Charlton Heston, Phil Donahue and Bill Clinton; the last was often considered his best-known impression.

Hartman's original Saturday Night Live characters included Eugene, the Anal Retentive Chef and Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Hartman first performed his Clinton impression on an episode of The Tonight Show. When he met Clinton in 1993 Hartman remarked, "I guess I owe you a few apologies", adding later that he "sometimes ". Clinton showed good humor and sent Hartman a signed photo with the text: "You're not the president, but you play one on TV. And you're OK, mostly." One of Hartman's more famous sketches as Clinton saw the president visit a McDonald's restaurant and explain his policies by eating other customers' food. The writers told him that he was not eating enough during rehearsals for the sketch – by the end of the live performance, Hartman had eaten so much he could barely speak.

Backstage at SNL, Hartman was called "the Glue", a name coined by Adam Sandler, according to Jay Mohr's book Gasping for Airtime. SNL creator Lorne Michaels explained the reason for the name: "He kind of held the show together. He gave to everybody and demanded very little. He was very low-maintenance." Hartman often helped other cast members. For example, he aided Jan Hooks in overcoming her stage fright. Michaels added that Hartman was "the least appreciated" cast member by commentators outside the show, and praised his ability "to do five or six parts in a show where you're playing support or you're doing remarkable character work". Hartman was nominated for three Emmy Awards for his work on SNL, winning in 1989 for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.

After his co-stars Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Jan Hooks and Dana Carvey had left, Hartman said he felt "like an athlete who's watched all his World Series teammates get traded off into other directions ... It was hard to watch them leave because I sort of felt we were all part of the team that saved the show." This cast turnover contributed to his leaving the show in 1994. Hartman had originally planned to leave the show in 1991, but Michaels convinced him to stay to raise his profile; his portrayal of Clinton contributed to this goal. Jay Leno offered him the role of his sidekick on The Tonight Show but Hartman opted to stay on SNL. NBC persuaded him to stay on SNL by promising him his own comedy–variety show entitled The Phil Show. He planned to "reinvent the variety form" with "a hybrid, very fast-paced, high energy with sketches, impersonations, pet acts, and performers showcasing their talents". Hartman was to be the show's executive producer and head writer. Before production began, however, the network decided that variety shows were too unpopular and scrapped the series. In a 1996 interview, Hartman noted he was glad the show had been scrapped, as he "would've been sweatin' blood each week trying to make it work". In 1998, he admitted he missed working on SNL, but had enjoyed the move from New York City to Southern California.

 NewsRadio (1995–1998)
Hartman became one of the stars of the NBC sitcom NewsRadio in 1995, portraying radio news anchor Bill McNeal. He signed up after being attracted by the show's ensemble cast, and joked that he based McNeal on himself with "any ethics and character" removed. Hartman made roughly $50,000 per episode of NewsRadio. Although the show was critically acclaimed, it was never a ratings hit and cancellation was a regular threat. After the completion of the fourth season, Hartman commented, "We seem to have limited appeal. We're on the edge here, not sure we're going to be picked up or not", but added he was "99 percent sure" the series would be renewed for a fifth season. Hartman had publicly lambasted NBC's decision to repeatedly move NewsRadio into different timeslots, but later regretted his comments, saying, "this is a sitcom, for crying out loud, not brain surgery". He also stated that if the sitcom were cancelled "it just will open up other opportunities for me". Although the show was renewed for a fifth season, Hartman would die before production began. Ken Tucker praised Hartman's performance as McNeal: "A lesser performer ... would have played him as a variation on The Mary Tyler Moore Shows Ted Baxter, because that's what Bill was, on paper. But Hartman gave infinite variety to Bill's self-centeredness, turning him devious, cowardly, squeamish, and foolishly bold from week to week." Hartman was posthumously nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in Comedy Series in 1998 for his work on NewsRadio, but lost to David Hyde Pierce.

 Other work
Hartman provided the voices for numerous characters on the Fox animated series The Simpsons, appearing in over 50 episodes. He made his first appearance in the second season episode "Bart Gets Hit by a Car". Although he was originally brought in for a one-time appearance, Hartman enjoyed working on The Simpsons and the staff wrote additional parts for him. He voiced the recurring characters Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure, as well as several one-time and background characters. His favorite part, he often used his McClure voice to entertain the audience between takes while taping episodes of NewsRadio. He remarked, "My favorite fans are Troy McClure fans." He added "It's the one thing that I do in my life that's almost an avocation. I do it for the pure love of it."

Hartman was popular among the staff of The Simpsons. Showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein stated that they enjoyed his work, and used Hartman as much as possible when working on the show. To give Hartman a larger role, they developed the episode "A Fish Called Selma", which focuses on Troy McClure and expands the character's backstory. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening said that he "took for granted because he nailed the joke every time", and that his voice acting could produce "the maximum amount of humor" with any line he was given. Before his death, Hartman had expressed an interest in making a live action film about Troy McClure. Many of The Simpsons production staff expressed enthusiasm for the project and offered to help. Hartman said he was "looking forward to [McClure's] live-action movie, publicizing his Betty Ford appearances", and "would love nothing more" than making a film and was prepared to buy the film rights himself in order to make it happen.

Hartman's first starring film role came in 1995's Houseguest, alongside Sinbad. Other films included Greedy, Coneheads, Sgt. Bilko, So I Married an Axe Murderer, CB4, Jingle All the Way, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Small Soldiers, the last of which was his final theatrically released film. At the same time, he preferred working on television. His other television roles included appearances on episodes of Seinfeld, The John Larroquette Show, The Dana Carvey Show, and the HBO TV film The Second Civil War as the President of the United States. He appeared as the kidnapper Randy in the third season cliffhanger finale of 3rd Rock from the Sun—a role written especially for him. He died before filming of the concluding episode could take place. Executive producer Terry Turner decided to recast the part, noting: "I have far too much respect for to try to find some clever way of getting around this real tragedy." Hartman made a considerable amount of money from television advertising, earning $300,000 for a series of four commercials for the soft drink Slice. He also appeared in advertisements for McDonalds and 1-800-Collect .

Hartman wrote a number of screenplays that were never produced. In 1986, Hartman began writing a screenplay for a film entitled Mr. Fix-It, and completed the final draft in 1991. Robert Zemeckis was signed to produce the film, with Gil Bettman hired to direct. Hartman called it "a sort of a merger of horror and comedy, like Beetlejuice and Throw Momma From the Train", adding, "It's an American nightmare about a family torn asunder. They live next to a toxic dump site, their water supply is poisoned, the mother and son go insane and try to murder each other, the father's face is torn off in a terrible disfiguring accident in the first act. It's heavy stuff, but it's got a good message and a positive, upbeat ending." Zemeckis could not secure studio backing, however, and the project collapsed. Another movie idea involving Hartman's Groundlings character Chick Hazard, Private Eye also fell through.

 personal life
Hartman married Gretchen Lewis in 1970 and they divorced sometime before 1982. He married real estate agent Lisa Strain in 1982 and their marriage lasted three years. Strain told People that Hartman was reclusive off screen and "would disappear emotionally ... he'd be in his own world. That passivity made you crazy." Hartman married former model and aspiring actress Brynn Omdahl in November 1987, having met her on a blind date the previous year. Together they had two children, Sean and Birgen Hartman. The marriage had difficulties—Brynn reportedly felt intimidated by her husband's success and was frustrated that she could not find any on her own, although neither party wanted a divorce. Hartman considered retiring to save the marriage. He tried to get Brynn acting roles but she became progressively more reliant on narcotics and alcohol, entering rehab several times. Because of his close friendship with SNL associate Jan Hooks, Brynn joked on occasion that Hooks and Hartman were married "on some other level".

 death
On the evening of May 27, 1998, Brynn Hartman visited the Italian restaurant Buca di Beppo in Encino, California, with producer and writer Christine Zander, who said she was "in a good frame of mind". After returning to the couple's nearby home, Brynn started a "heated" argument with Hartman, who threatened to leave her if she started using drugs again, and went to bed. While Hartman slept, Brynn entered his bedroom shortly before 3 a.m. with a .38 caliber handgun and fatally shot him twice in the head and once in his side. She was intoxicated, and had recently taken cocaine.

Brynn drove to the home of her friend Ron Douglas and confessed to the killing but initially he did not believe her. The pair drove back to the house in separate cars after which Brynn called another friend and confessed a second time. Upon seeing Hartman's body, Douglas called 911 at 6:20 a.m. Police subsequently arrived and escorted Douglas and the Hartmans' two children from the premises, by which time Brynn had locked herself in the bedroom and committed suicide, shooting herself once in the head.

Los Angeles police stated Hartman's death was due to "domestic discord" between the couple. A friend recalled that Brynn allegedly "had trouble controlling her anger... She got attention by losing her temper." A neighbor of the Hartmans told a CNN reporter that the couple had been experiencing marital problems: "It's been building, but I didn't think it would lead to this." Steve Guttenberg commented that they were "a very happy couple, and they always had the appearance of being well-balanced".

Other causes for the incident were later suggested. Before committing the act, Brynn was taking the antidepressant drug Zoloft. A wrongful-death lawsuit was filed in 1999 by Brynn's brother, Gregory Omdahl, against the drug's manufacturer, Pfizer, and her child's psychiatrist Arthur Sorosky, who provided samples of Zoloft to Brynn. Hartman's friend and former SNL colleague Jon Lovitz has accused Hartman's former NewsRadio co-star Andy Dick of re-introducing Brynn to cocaine, causing her to relapse and suffer a nervous breakdown. Dick claims to have known nothing of her condition. In 2006, Lovitz claimed that Dick had approached him at a restaurant and said, "I put the Phil Hartman hex on you; you're the next one to die." The following year at the Laugh Factory comedy club in Los Angeles, Lovitz and Dick had a further altercation over the issue. Dick asserts that he is not at fault in relation to Hartman's death.

Brynn's sister Katharine Omdahl and brother-in-law Mike Wright raised the two Hartman children. Hartman's will stipulated that each child will receive their inheritance over several years after they turn 25. The total value of Hartman's estate was estimated at $1.23 million. In accordance with Hartman's will, his body was cremated by Forest Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Glendale, California, and his ashes were scattered over Santa Catalina Island's Emerald Bay.

 Response and legacy
Hartman was widely mourned in Hollywood. NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer stated that Hartman "was blessed with a tremendous gift for creating characters that made people laugh. Everyone who had the pleasure of working with Phil knows that he was a man of tremendous warmth, a true professional and a loyal friend." Steve Guttenberg expressed his shock at Hartman's death, and Steve Martin said he was "a deeply funny and very happy person". Matt Groening called him "a master", while director Joe Dante said, "He was one of those guys who was a dream to work with. I don't know anybody who didn't like him." Dan Snierson of Entertainment Weekly concluded that Hartman was "the last person you'd expect to read about in lurid headlines in your morning paper," and "a decidedly regular guy, beloved by everyone he worked with". In 2007 Entertainment Weekly ranked Hartman the eighty-seventh greatest television icon of all time, and Maxim named Hartman the top Saturday Night Live performer of all time.

Rehearsals for The Simpsons were canceled on the day of Hartman's death, as was that night's performance by The Groundlings. The season five premiere episode of NewsRadio, "Bill Moves On", finds Hartman's character, Bill McNeal, has died of a heart attack, while the other characters reminisced about his life. Jon Lovitz joined the show in his place from the following episode. A special episode of Saturday Night Live commemorating Hartman's work on the show aired on June 13, 1998. Rather than substituting another voice actor, the writers of The Simpsons retired Hartman's characters, and the season ten episode "Bart the Mother" was dedicated to him.

At the time of his death, Hartman was preparing to voice Zapp Brannigan, a character written specifically for him on Groening's second animated series Futurama. Following Hartman's death, Futurama's lead character Philip J. Fry was named in his honor and Billy West took over the role of Brannigan. West later said that he purposely tweaked Zapp's voice to better match Hartman's intended portrayal. Hartman was also planning to appear with Lovitz in the indie film The Day of Swine and Roses scheduled to begin production in August 1998.

Laugh.com and Hartman's brother John Hartmann published the album Flat TV in 2002. The album is a selection of comedy sketches recorded by Hartman in the 1970s which had been kept in storage until their release. Hartmann commented: "I'm putting this out there because I'm dedicating my life to fulfilling his dreams. This is my brother doing what he loved." In 2007, a campaign was started on Facebook by Alex Stevens and endorsed by Hartman's brother Paul to have Hartman inducted to Canada's Walk of Fame and is still ongoing.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Phil Hartman", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.