Birthday: September 24, 1948
Nationality: American, Canadian
Died At Age: 49
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Philip Edward Hartmann
Born Country: Canada
Born in: Brantford
Famous as: Actor, Voice Actor, Comedian
Height: 5'10" (178 cm), 5'10" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Brynn Hartman (m. 1987–1998), Gretchen Lewis (m. 1970–1972), Lisa Strain (m. 1982–1985)
father: Rupert Hartmann
siblings: Jane Hartmann, John Hartmann, Katharine Wright, Martha Hartmann, Mary Hartmann, Nancy Hartman-McCoy, Paul Andrew Hartmann, Sara Hartmann
children: Birgen Anika Hartman, Sean Edward Hartman
Died on: May 28, 1998
place of death: Encino
Cause of Death: Assassination
education: California State University, Northridge
Philip Edward "Phil" Hartman was a Canadian-born American actor, writer, graphic designer, and comedian renowned for his eccentric sense of humour and satirical comedy. He was at his very best portraying arrogant, obnoxious, and unpleasant characters despite having, by all accounts, a regular, mellow, easy-going personality in real-life. After completing his education, Hartman began working as a graphic artist. Unsatisfied with his ordinary job and seeking a more interactive outlet for his talents, he enrolled in the comedy classes run by the California-based improvisational comedy troupe ‘The Groundlings’, whom he later joined and re-designed their logo in lieu of a payment. He collaborated with Paul Reubens in the creation of latter’s character, Pee-wee Herman. In 1986, he became a cast member of NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ where, through his prodigious skills at celebrity impersonations, he quickly garnered immense popularity. Soon enough, other lucrative offers started to pour in. He played Bill McNeal in ‘NewsRadio’ and provided the voice for Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz in ‘The Simpsons’. At the time of his death, in 1998, he was one of the busiest character actors in the industry as well as an up-and-coming screenwriter who had sold his first film script. In 2014, Hartman was posthumously inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Childhood & Early Life
Philip Edward Hartmann (he later omitted one ‘n’ from his last name to spell it “Hartman”) was born on September 24, 1948, in Brantford, Ontario, Canada to Doris Marguerite (née Wardell) and Rupert Loebig Hartmann as the fourth of their eight children. His father, who was a building material salesman, moved the family to the US in 1958. They briefly lived in Connecticut before settling in California. His had five sisters, Mary, Sara, Nancy, Martha, and Jane, and two brothers, John and Paul Andrew.
Hailing from a Catholic family, he studied at Westchester High School. He then attended Santa Monica City College but dropped out in 1969 so he could join the road crew of a rock band.
In 1972, he went back to school at California State University, Northridge to get a degree in graphic arts. After his graduation, he became a successful entrepreneur, running his own graphic designing business where he developed the cover art of over 40 albums for bands such as Poco and America and the logo for Crosby, Stills & Nash.
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In 1975, at the age of 27, Phil Hartman began taking an evening comedy class run by The Groundlings. Comedy soon turned into a social outlet for his creativity and one night, while watching other members of the troupe performing, he went up to the stage and joined the act. By 1979, he had risen to be one of its stars. It was during one of these performances that he met his future agent Betty Fanning McCann.
One of his co-performers in The Groundlings was Paul Reubens. In time, they became close friends and worked on several projects together, including the development of the character of Pee-wee Herman.
In 1981, they staged a live performance of ‘The Pee-wee Herman Show’, which was later broadcast on HBO. Hartman also co-wrote the scripts for 1985 film ‘Pee-wee's Big Adventure’ and the spin-off CBS TV series ‘Pee-wee's Playhouse’ (1986-90), playing the grimy Kap'n Karl in the latter.
On television, he debuted as a voice actor on the animated series ‘Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo’ in 1979. His first screen appearance was in the musical action-drama ‘Stunt Rock’, which was released in the same year.
In the next few years, he played a series of small roles in projects such as ‘The Six O' Clock Follies’ (1980), ‘The Gong Show Movie’ (1980), ‘Pandemonium’ (1982), and ‘Magnum, P.I.’ (1984). He also lent his voice to multiple animated productions, including ‘Red Pepper’ (1981), ‘The Little Rascals’ (1982), and ‘The Dukes’ (1983).
In ‘Dennis the Menace’ (1986), he voiced both Henry Mitchell and George Wilson. Comfortable playing side characters, he co-starred with Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short in ‘Three Amigos’ (1986), Bruce Willis in ‘Blind Date’ (1987), Bill Murray and Geena Davis in ‘Quick Change’ (1990), and Dan Aykroyd in ‘Coneheads’ (1993).
Initially, Hartman was supposed to provide his voice for one episode in the second season of ‘The Simpsons’ (1991-98) but the experience was so positive that he was eventually offered the recurring roles of Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure. He was also interested in making a live action film on Troy McClure. Following Hartman’s death, the showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein retired those characters.
Phil Hartman was part of SNL’s cast and writing staff for eight years, from 1986 to 1994. Called ‘The Glue’ backstage for his helpful and caring attitude, he is remembered by many of his fellow cast members for holding the show together. Furthermore, he was a brilliant improvisational performer and impersonator. During his tenure on the variety show, he impersonated the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Ed McMahon, Barbara Bush, Charlton Heston, Phil Donahue and Bill Clinton; the last is generally regarded as his best performance in the bunch.
He was cast as Evelyn William "Bill" McNeal on NBC’s sitcom ‘NewsRadio’ (1995-98). Bombastic, egocentric, and insubordinate, McNeal is the news co-anchor for WYNX, the radio station where the story is set. Hartman, who reportedly had said that he based the portrayal of the character on himself with all ethics removed, received a TV Land nomination for the role.
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Awards & Achievements
In 1989, Phil Hartman won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program for ‘Saturday Night Live’ as part of the show’s writing staff.
His Television Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 6600 Hollywood Boulevard. The ceremony was conducted on August 26, 2014.
He was also posthumously inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame (class of 2012).
Phil Hartman was thrice married. He married his first wife, Gretchen, Lewis in 1970. The marriage ended in a divorce in 1972.
He married real estate agent, Lisa Strain, in 1982 and they got divorced in 1985. He had no children from his first two marriages.
He met former model and aspiring actress Brynn Omdahl (born Vicki Jo Omdahl) on a blind date sometime in 1986, and married her in November 1987. It was a tumultuous relationship, gradually deteriorating due to Omdahl’s depression and chronic drug use. She gave birth to a son, Sean Edward, in 1989 and a daughter, Birgen Anika, in 1992.
As Hartman became more successful in his career, Omdahl’s frustration increased as she was still struggling in her own. Not wanting a separation, he got her several roles, even briefly considered retirement. On the evening of May 27, 1998, after returning from a dinner with friends, Omdahl engaged in a heated argument with her husband who told her that he would leave if she started using drugs again.
At 3:00 a.m., entering into Hartman’s bedroom under the influence of both alcohol and cocaine, she fatally shot him three times. Shortly after calling her friends and the police, she locked herself in the bedroom and put the .38 caliber handgun in her mouth and pulled the trigger, thus committing suicide.
Hartman was granted American citizenship in 1990.