Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Definitive 1000

We are going to be counting down the Definitive 1000 things. Why are they Definitive? Because The Friendly Friends have deemed them as such.

#990 - Phil Hartman

FFJewbacca: Here’s how to sum up the genius of Phil Hartman:

1. Lionel Hutz
2. Troy McClure
3. The Smurfs
4. John “Vicky” Johnson
5. Quick Change
6. The Sinatra Group
7. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
8. Soylent Green is made out of people! PEOPLE!
9. Three Amigos!
10. Lyle Lanley and the Monorail Song

When the Friendly Friends meet, at least 7 of these characters or lines will be quoted ad nauseum.

Name one other performer with the same range and the same profound effect on pop culture. Phil Hartman had a hand in all 10 of these things either as a performer or writer.

And these are just the 10 things that the Friendly Friends discuss on a regular basis during our live stage shows. Which by stage shows I mean sitting at the bar or while playing video games.

But you get my drift. This list leaves out his brilliance in NewsRadio, his voiceover work in cartoons ranging from Duck Tales to GoBots, all of his other brilliant SNL characters (such as the “Sassy” guy), the countless other movies he’s been in, and the fact that he started out designing album covers for CSNY and America.


FFMatt: He’s the ultra mega bomb even from beyond the grave. On SNL from ‘86 to ’94 he killed me up with his ability to play a supporting character that totally steals scenes. And while his movement and facial expressions where hilarious, it was his voice that had such unbelievable character and range. Take a look at IMDB and you’ll see a ton of voice work. That wasn’t luck. That was skill, which rhymes with Phil.

When I heard he died I actually filled up a bit. The first thing I thought was that I always figured I’d meet him at an airport and tell him thanks for all the laughs and I figured that unlike most celebs, he’d probably appreciate yet another Joe thanking him for what he seemed to do even when he wasn’t getting paid for it. I felt robbed. I think everyone did.

He reminds me of that one guy that everyone knows that can just break a room up and still keep a backbone of dignity… but in a mega-ultra way. He couldn’t be beat. That says a lot when you look at his cast mates on SNL and others he has worked with.

Phil we love you. We can’t have a Definitive 1000 without you.

FFSweaty Irishman: From Frank Sinatra to Phil Donahue, Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, Phil Hartman impersonated every one under the sun at SNL. Phil was the funniest cast member the first day he arrived, and he was the funniest cast member the day he left. I am sure anyone who worked with him would say so and there were some heavy hitters on the show during his reign such as Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Dennis Miller, Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock… just to name a few. It was pretty clear to me that Hartman was the “go to guy” at SNL. If they needed something to be funny…put Phil in the sketch. If they needed someone to impersonate someone…let Phil do it. Phil did Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and the only reason he didn’t do George Bush most likely is because he was too busy impersonating Barbara Bush! As funnier as his impersonations were, the most memorable Hartman moments for me came from his last sketch of the night, let Phil do what he wants stuff such as “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” or the “Anal Retentive Chef”. Phil had such a great way of delivering unfunny material in a funny way that he must have made the writers jobs so much easier during his time at SNL.

Outside of SNL, Phil lent his genius and voice to enhance such great shows as The Simpsons. Whether it is Lionel Hutz (AKA Miguel Sanchez) or Troy McClure and his romantic abnormality towards fish, any episode Phil showed up in is generally one of the funniest. You then of course have his great scene stealing cameos like in So I Married an Axe Murder as “Vicki” the Alcatraz Tour Guide. No one says, “pissing into the bitches ocular cavities” as funny as Phil Hartman! He lent his voice to numerous other cartoons, helped co-create Pee-Wee’s playhouse and co-wrote the film (vastly underrated).

Finally, to really help people understand just how funny and loved Phil Hartman is to me I will say this. I am not old or young. I remember where I was when the Challenger Shuttle blew up. I remember where I was when Joe Carter killed off the closest chance I had at experiencing a championship in Philadelphia, and I also remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard Phil Hartman was killed. It may not sound like much, but for such a moment to be burned into my memory should give some indication as to how saddened and even angry I was when I learned the news. I still laugh whenever I hear his voice, and I still feel the loss when I realize I will never hear anything new from him.