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Bongo Profile: Phil Hartman
Transcribed By Bruce Gomes (firstname.lastname@example.org) from
Simpsons Comics #37
© Bongo Entertainment, Inc. , 1998.
Phil Hartman (1948 - 1998)
Like a lot other people, I was a huge fan of Phil's. The characters he portrayed on "Saturday Night Live," "News Radio," and "The Simpsons" were funny as hell, but there was something more: in Phil's voice, in his body language, in the twinkle in his eye, you could sense a performer fully enjoying himself. Phil was digging the acting process while he was in the middle of it, and the fact that many of Phil's characters were so blatantly consumed by a hilariously smarmy insincerity just added to the audience's enjoyment. You could always tell Phil was having a blast performing, and that he enjoyed his fellow actors' performances as well. And whenever Phil was on a talk show, I tuned in, because his Phil Hartman Interview Persona was just as entertaining as his characters.
I first saw Phil Hartman in 1980, I think it was, when he played Captain Carl in the early, stage version of "Pee-Wee's Playhouse," which ran for several months at the Groundlings Theatre on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. In a show full of top-notch performers, not least of whom was Pee-Wee Herman himself, I thought Phil was a stand-out. I told him so one night at a party, and many years later, when Phil first came to the recording stage at "The Simpsons," I was gratified to learn that he remembered my gushing.
And what a thrill it was to have Phil play shoddy lawyer Lionel Hutz and washed-up actor Troy McClure on "The Simpsons." He was a comedy writer's dream: Phil could get a laugh out of any line he was given, and make a funny line even funnier. He nailed the joke every time, and that made all "The Simpsons" writers worship him. If a script ever dragged, we knew we could throw in a Lionel Hutz scene and everything would perk right up. We were finally able to really show our appreciation of Phil with the 1996 episode "A Fish Called Selma," featuring Troy McClure. One of my favorite moments in the history of "The Simspons" is the "Planet of the Apes - The Musical" scene, which made me laugh till I cried the first time I saw it.
The last time I saw Phil was a week or so before his death, when he came in to audition for my new, animated show-in-the-works, "Futurama." Of course, Phil didn't really have to audition - as far as Executive Producer David Cohen and I were concerned, he had the part. We told Phil that, but he came in anyway, and blew us away with his performances. Phil tried out a number of voices and made us laugh every time. He was, as usual, in fine spirits - glad to be there, glad to be working, having a fine time in life. Phil and I talked about our kids, and how lucky we both were to be doing work that our kids enjoyed. Phil talked about all the ad-libs he did as Captain Blasto for the video-game Blasto, and I told him my kids loved that game. He did a bit of his character Caveman Lawyer, talked about how much he enjoyed flying his plane, and head out the door.
See you soon, Phil, we said. Thanks for coming in!
And now, a couple weeks later, I can't believe I'm sitting here having to write these words. Everyone who collaborated with Phil at "The Simpsons" will miss him terribly. Phil's humor, attitude, and easy-going enthusiasm made working with him a joy. He can never be replaced.
This is one of those awful times in life when words cannot express the grief that comes with the unexpected loss of a great, great guy.
This page last updated on March 15, 2014 by Bruce Gomes (email@example.com)