Phil Hartman was a man of many talents; actor, comedian, narrator, screenwriter, and experienced graphic designer. Originally born in Canada, his family moved to the United States when he was a child. He started out as a graphic artist, later found his way to comedy before finally turning to act.
Hartman became famous in the 1980s through his brilliant work on Saturday Night Live, which earned him the Primetime Emmy Award in 1989. The multi-talented star later played some cult figures in a number of hit sitcoms such as NewsRadio and The Simpsons.
Sadly, Hartman’s life came to a tragic end in 1998, when he was barely 50 years old. The man who had brought so much joy and laughter to the television audience had to shorten his own life in the cruelest possible way.
Who was Phil Hartman?
He was born Philip Edward Hartmann on September 24, 1948, in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. He was the fourth of his parents’ eight children and was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. After moving to the USA with his family in 1958, he completed his high school education at Westchester High School in Los Angeles. For college, he attended California State University in Northridge, where he studied graphic arts.
After graduating, Hartman built his own graphic design company and designed and created album covers, advertising logos, and other such things for various music groups. During this time he enrolled in comedy classes with The Groundlings in Los Angeles. After years of training, he joined the cast of The Groundlings and eventually became one of the main stars of the show.
In 1977 Hartman worked with his comedian colleague Paul Reuben to create the character “Pee-wee Herman” and The Pee-wee Herman Show, a stage show based on the above character. Hartman portrayed the character “Captain Carl” in the show, which eventually found its way into the film “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985) and the television show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” (1986-87), in which he also took part. Hartman finally left the Pee-wee Herman project after he and Paul Reuben had a disagreement about some creative aspects. He then took on several film roles and voiceover roles in the 1980s and 1990s. In particular, he earned a reputation as a voiceover artist for commercials.
Phil Hartman received the most notable role of his showbiz career when he joined the cast and writing crew of the long-running NBC variety show Saturday Night Live (SNL). His stint with SNL spanned 8 years, during which he played up to 70 different characters. He became especially known for his hilarious, epic Bill Clinton impressions and comedic sketches. Hartman’s roles as lead actor and author in the SNL earned him three nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award and in 1989 he and other co-authors won the Outstanding Writing Award for a variety, music, or comedy program.
While working on Saturday Night Live, Hartman also held several other acting roles, the most notable of which was in the successful animated sitcom The Simpsons (1991-98) from its second season onward. He sang various characters and appeared in a total of 52 episodes. Hartman left the SNL in 1994 and consequently moved from New York City to Southern California. In 1995 he joined the cast of the NBC sitcom NewsRadio, where he appeared as radio news anchor Bill McNeal. He was on the show for four seasons when he died before the fifth and final season.
Family Life: Wife and Kids
Phil Hartman was married three times in his life. For obvious reasons, the most significant of his marital connections was with Brynn Omdahl, a former model, and aspiring actress. The duo met on a blind date, and after being together for a year, they entered into marriage on November 25, 1987. They had two children together, Sean Edward, born in 1987, and Birgen Hartman, born in 1992.
Unlike her famous husband, Brynn was not able to advance in her own showbiz career. She was supposedly intimidated by her husband’s huge success, and at some point, Hartman considered giving up his own career just to save the marriage. Brynn’s plight was further complicated by her growing addiction to alcohol and drugs, which made it even more difficult for her to get acting roles.
Hartman and his wife never divorced, but the marriage ended 11 years after the tragic death of both parties. After their death, the two Hartman children were finally raised by their mother’s sister, Katherine Omdahl, and her husband Michael Wright in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Cause of Death
The life of Phil Hartman ended on May 28, 1998, in Encino, California. While sleeping in his bedroom that fateful day, he was shot three times by his wife Brynn, who was drunk at the time. After she committed the heinous act, she drove to a friend to whom she confessed the crime. Together they went back to the apartment where the friend finally dialed 911.
Brynn Hartman also called another friend, to whom she also confessed the crime. Before the police arrived on the scene, she locked herself in her bedroom and killed herself by shooting herself in the right eye.
Phil Hartman’s death was classified as murder. His remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered at his will in Emerald Bay on Santa Catalina Island, Los Angeles.