There are no better words to describe the life of American legend Phil Hartman, who brought mirth in millions of homes, yet had none in his own.
“A farce or comedy is best played; a tragedy is best read at home.”
Phil Hartman’s 1998 murder shocked a nation for no one could imagine the private hell the actor’s life had become in his later years.
He died at the hands of a woman he’d married against all warnings, a woman he stood by as she began to unravel at the hands of her own personal demons.
The Class Clown’s Rise To Fame
Most people knew Phil Hartman from his Saturday Night Live skits as well as from his role in ‘The Simpsons’. He was brilliantly funny and, as opposed to many other stars, he was not known for having a troubled life.
Phil Hartman was born in 1948, in Ontario, Canada, in a deeply religious family. His parents took great care to instill strong Catholic morals in their eight children, yet had little time and affection to spare.
According to Hartman, it was this constant fight for attention that drove him to comedy.
When Phil was 10 the family moved to the US where the boy quickly established himself as the class clown, a typical attitude in children seeking to get attention.
“I suppose I didn’t get what I wanted out of my family life,” Hartman said, “so I started seeking love and attention elsewhere.”
Despite his obvious talent for acting, young Phil opted for a serious job, studying graphic arts at California State University and then opening his own studio.
Business was good and he designed the covers for more than 40 albums. Among his most notable achievements of that time was the creation of the Crosby, Stills, and Nash logo.
For all his success, he could not ignore his calling for the stage and in 1975 he joined a comedy group called The Groundlings. Soon enough he established himself as the star of the group.
“Whatever he was going to imagine or say was nothing you could imagine or think of… He could do any voice, play any character, make his face look different without makeup. He was king of the Groundlings,” according to Mike Thomas, author of the 2004 Hartman biography You Might Remember Me.
His fame grew and so did interest in this rising star. Phil Hartman started getting small film roles, including doing the voices for various animated characters.
He even helped Paul Reubens, also a Groundlings member develop his famous PeeWee Herman character. It was the success of the PeeWee Herman movie that got earned Hartman an invitation to work for the Saturday Night Live show.