Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hilarity Ensues: Phil Hartman

Today's the birthday of Phil Hartman (1948-1998).

Cult of Phil Hartman
Phil Hartman did a lot of stuff, but it all came together on Saturday Night Live. That late-'80s/early-'90s era was a true heyday. Second only with respect to the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players, maybe. I'd say Hartman lead the way. He did a lot of impressions (Reagan and Clinton), but how many people could make a sketch like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer funny? Maybe no-one else, most certainly no-one on SNL these days. I don't use the word genius lightly. But if such a thing exists, Phil Hartman was a sketch comedy genius.

From The Pee-Wee Herman Show, to NewsRadio and The Simpsons, he was always a low-key, second-line standout. From all accounts, as both a performer and writer. Anyway... for my money, the pinnacle of Phil Hartman is The Sinatra Group. This was the day we attacked Iraq, and Sting played a song instead of doing a monologue. He's great as Billy Idol, it's got Jan Hooks, Chris Rock, Mike Myers... Maybe it's because I already watched The McLaughlin Group weekly, and thought it was already hilarious. But this one gets my vote for Best SNL Sketch - Ever! A tour de force.

[Click to see at Hulu (sorry) - where it's not so tiny.]

Also, it's deeply satisfying that Joe Piscopo does. not. approve.

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