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December 7, 2021

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Phil Hartman interviewed in LV two weeks before death

It happens again. The Movie Guys are back at Planet Hollywood, having a meal that is truly out of this world, sitting underneath the nuclear warhead from True Lies, when suddenly, the man with a thousand voices strolls into the restaurant. Actor/comedian Phil Hartman has this friendly genuine glow around him that engulfs all who stand near him. He was gracious enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions.

Question 1

The Movie Guys: You co-wrote Pee Wee's Big Adventure with Paul Reubens and appeared as Captain Carl on Pee Wee's Playhouse. When you first met Paul, did you think he was creepy?

Phil: (laughs) Honestly, Paul Reubens had such enormous power as a performer that he was instantly enamored by all the people who worked at The Groundlings (Improv Club) where I met him in 1979. Pee Wee was just one of several fully realized characters that Paul could do. His gift was beyond anything I've ever seen.

Question 2

The Movie Guys: You were a renowned album cover artist for many years. What's the most infamous album cover you designed?

Phil: I think my most famous was Poco's Legend. It's a white album with a simple line drawing of a horse. It almost has a Picasso feel to it. I remember that Rusty Young, the lead singer of the band, said "I want you to draw a horse for the song 'Legend,' which is about a phantom spirit horse. I want you to do it in several lines. I ended up doing it in 22 lines and that was a simple as I could make it and still capture the essence I wanted. I drew the image maybe 20 times, until I came up with the cover that I'm very proud of.

Question 3

The Movie Guys: If Bill McNeil ("NewsRadio") and Ted Baxter ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show") got into a fight, who would win?

Phil: (laughs) Bill McNeil would probably prevail over Ted Baxter because Bill isn't really that stupid. He's just arrogant and he'll say stupid things sometimes with utter conviction. That's the height of arrogance, I suppose, if you feel it doesn't matter what you say because in your world, you only speak the truth. Ted Baxter was a bit of a dimwit and I think that Bill would roll right over him. As for who's funnier ... oh, boy ... Ted Knight was a very funny man.

Question 4

The Movie Guys: When you were a kid, you and your friends had a secret code you would speak so you could swear when adults were around: what was that?

Phil: (shocked) That's right! Wow, you guys have really done your homework. My brothers and sisters and I spoke in a language called Egg Latin. In the early '50s in Canada, this became a fad way of talking among certain people. It's based on the concept that in every syllable before the vowel and after the preceding constant you insert the word egg. So, my name Phil would be "Pegghil." The United States of America would be "The ggeeggUneggitegged Steggategges eggof eggAmeggereggicegga." We would speak this language and what would be amazing about it is that we could all do it fluently. If you give me a sentence, I could translate it for you.

(Phil then recites the Pledge of Allegiance in Egg Latin. We take his word for it.)

Question 5

The Movie Guys: You appeared on Saturday Night Live for eight seasons. Which host was the most fun, and which one was the biggest jerk?

Phil: There were only a few jerks and I don't want to malign anybody, because hopefully they've mended their evil ways (laughs). The most fun was Robin Williams, a feat of nature. A truly amazing talent to be around. I remember when Robin would visit our various offices. You would be there in the middle of the night, working by yourself and you'd hear this laughter echoing three doors down, then two doors down, then one door down and then he would come into your room like the Tasmanian Devil. You would basically leave your tape recorder going and he would write your scene for you that you would have in mind. A very warm-hearted guy. That's why he's such a fine actor. Tom Hanks, a super guy; John Goodman; Alec Baldwin; all of whom could have been cast members if they weren't such big stars already.

Question 6

The Movie Guys: Do you remember Troy McClure?

Phil: I am Troy McClure. You may know me from such motion pictures as "Hitler Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and "Sorry, Wrong Closet." But, tonight I'm here to tell you about a new toothpaste that not only cleans and brightens but straightens your teeth.

Question 7

The Movie Guys: Who is Captain Blasto?

Phil: Blasto is a new game for Sony Playstation. It's an awesome three-dimensional game and I play the character Blasto who's sort of a Flash Gordon barrel-chested superhero who goes to Uranus and shoots these little green alien Fascist guys. He rescues babes, he goes on wild rides. I went into a recording studio for one day and recorded six hours of everything that Blasto might say. The game just came out; my little boy loves it and I hope it does well.

Question 8

The Movie Guys: Was Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer based on special prosecutor Kenneth Starr?

Phil: (laughs) Could've been. Frozen Caveman Lawyer has the same voice as Lionel Hutz, Ambulance Chasing Attorney. (Phil goes into the voice of Lionel Hutz) "Mrs. Simpson, I think your son could be seriously injured. I'd like to take him to a chiropractic specialist by the name of Dr. Nick Riviera, who might find soft-tissue damage that your physician might be unaware of." (laughs) Now, the same voice says; "I'm just a caveman who fell through some ice and was later thawed by your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me." (laughs)

Question 9

The Movie Guys: Let's play a word-association game. Tell us the very first word that pops in your mind.

The Movie Guys: Lorne Michaels.

Phil: Royalty.

The Movie Guys: Sinbad.

Phil: Teeth.

The Movie Guys: Andy Dick.

Phil: Dick.

The Movie Guys: Frank Sinatra

Phil: Swings

Question 10

The Movie Guys: You were a contestant on The Dating Game in 1965. So, Bachelor #1, here's your final question: If I were a pitcher of cold water and you were a packet of Kool-Aid, what flavor would you be?

Phil: (letting out a big laugh) Banana Royal. That's how I won, by being lascivious. They asked me "If you were a street sign, what would you be?" I said, "Slippery when wet." The audience went nuts. So, she voted for me, but I think her parents vetoed it, 'cause she stood me up.

Phil Hartman Fact File

Born: Sept. 24, 1948 in Brantford, Ontario, Canada

Died: May 28, 1998 in Encino, Calif.

Hartman, 49, made his mark in comedy in 1975 when he became a member of the famed Groundlings comedy troupe in Los Angeles. The actor/comedian joined the cast of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" in 1986 and stayed on for seven seasons. His vast repertoire of characterizations included such personalities as Bill Clinton, Frank Sinatra, Jack Nicholson and Ted Kennedy. Long-established as a reliable character actor, Hartman has appeared in such motion pictures as Greedy, House Guest, Sgt. Bilko and Jingle All the Way.

Married and father of two, Hartman spends his infrequent off-time piloting his own plane, sailing, scuba diving, golfing and skiing.

Virtually every character Phil Hartman ever played on SNL

Bill Clinton

Ted Kennedy

Barbara Bush

Frank Sinatra

Gene, The Anal Retentive Chef/Fisherman/Carpenter

Ed McMahon


Cirroc (Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer)

Jack Nicholson

James Stockdale

Ronald Reagan

Jack Kemp

Joseph A. Wapner

Donald Trump

Santa Claus

Lee Iacocca

Phil Donahue

Kenny Rogers

Charlton Heston


Kelsey Grammar/Dr. Frasier Crane

Burt Reynolds

Michael Eisner

Officer Miller

Frank Gifford

Jesus Christ

Telly Savalas

Russell Clark (senior editor of Sassy)

Susan (from Sprockets)

Sam Walton

David Brinkley

Pat Buchanan

Lt. Worf/Michael Dorn

Jimmy Johnson

Elton John

Chick Hazard, P.I.

Jimmy the Greek

Dick Button


Ray Combs

Roy Halston

Peter Graves

Roger Ebert

Michael Caine

Helmut (Hans & Franz's whipping boy)

John Tower

Robert Packwood

Robert Palmer

Oral Roberts

Jim Bakker

Verne Lundquist

Johnny Cash

Andy Griffith

Mario Cuomo

Robert McFarlane

Bill Franklin (game show host)

Bruce Babbitt

Jimmy The Greek

Jimmy Swaggart

Wilford Brimley