This Saturday would have been Phil Hartman’s 63rd birthday. I miss the guy a lot. He was the utility player on SNL during my formative years. He voiced some of the most memorable characters in the history of The Simpsons, and the show hasn’t quite been the same since he died. Every movie he was in- no matter how bad- was made better by his presence. The world was robbed of a lot of laughs when he died. To honor the birthday of one of history’s most underrated comedic actors, here are my eleven favorite Phil Hartman characters.
Cirroc, The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer
The concept was so simple yet so amusing. It played perfectly into Hartman’s sly huckster character. It was, after all, the character that he played best. But there was one exception- instead of the abnormally slick Hartman with the melodious voice, he came with a sloped forehead, flat fish lips, and a blur of wild unkept jet black hair. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’m just a writer. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my BMW… and run off into the hills! My primitive mind can’t grasp these concepts. But there is one thing I do know – when a man like Phil Hartman puts on caveman makeup and acts like a lawyer, it’s hilarious. Thank you.
Susan the Austrian Shemale
There is nothing I could say that would do this justice. So here’s the clip.
Hartman, as Hutz, embodied the stereotypical unethical lawyer, taking it to outlandish and hilarious levels. He’d try, and fail, again and again to talk his way out of various messes; had a drinking problem; and would do anything for cash. Oh, and he also had a problem with one of the local judges:
“Well, he’s had it in for me ever since I kinda ran over his dog… Well, replace the word ‘kinda’ with ‘repeatedly’ and the word ‘dog’ with ‘son’.”
On NewsRadio, Hartman had a chance to shine in a role his very own. He really let his egotistical character run amok, fleshing it out best as he could before his untimely death.
Lanly was a one-time character, but he was the source of one of the most memorable episodes of The Simpsons– the monorail episode. Lyle was the character who put Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook on the map by selling them a monorail. Of course, he failed to mention that those towns were destroyed by his shoddy monorail.
Do you want a true testament of how funny Phil Hartman was? He played a character whose sole dialogue consisted of grunting and saying “FIRE BAAAAD!” And it was hysterical.
It’s easy to do a Clinton impersonation. Raise your voice a slight octave, act sly, slap on a slight southern accent, and you’re good to go. Lots of people have done Clinton impersonations. Not one has been as good as Hartman, who somehow went deeper and managed to capture Clinton’s goofy charisma without skimping on the laughs.
It’s easy to forget that before Saturday Night Live, Hartman showcased his talent on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse as Captain Carl, an oddball sailor who doled out goofy advice.
You might remember Troy McClure from such films as The Greatest Story Ever Hulaed and The Erotic Adventures of Hercules. Only McClure would have the acting chops to pull off the craptastic musical, Stop the Planet of the Apes! I Want to Get Off! This Meat and You educational video is one of my all-time favorite clips from The Simpsons.
As the host of the fictional The Sinatra Group, Hartman nailed a perfect caricature of Frank Sinatra as gruff, elderly, racist, and bombastic.
Again, I have no words that can do this justice. Here he is as Charlton Heston recording a book on tape- Madonna’s Sex: