The late Phil Hartman was a comedic talent that could ride the line between smarmy and funny like no other. Creating iconic characters on SNL and Newsradio, as well as memorable moments in The Simpsons, there was no role the man’s talents couldn’t tackle. So if you find yourself in the need of some prime laughter, feel free to enjoy the following assortment of Hartman magic that keeps his legacy alive.
“OH! THESE COOKIES!” - Jingle All The Way
Every holiday season, you can be assured that someone is going to reference Phil Hartman’s classic Jingle All The Way line. But when you’ve got people making references in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s social media feed to his character’s cookie induced ecstasy, you know it’s a line that’s made its mark.
“Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, I'm just a Caveman. I fell in some ice and later got thawed out by your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me.” - SNL
Through eight years as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, the characters that Phil Hartman helped create were as memorable as the show itself. “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” is one such sketch, as the cunning Keyrock falls back on such a wild backstory to get his way in court.
“Hi, I’m Troy McClure! You may remember me from…” - The Simpsons
You can probably fill this Simpsons line with a myriad of the titles that actor Troy McClure threw out in the various specials and infotainment programs he appeared on in Springfield. It doesn’t matter whether you choose “Death: The Silent Killer” or “The Revenge of Abe Lincoln,” whatever title comes after is automatically going to be a winner.
“I think World War II was my favorite war.” - Small Soldiers
Director Joe Dante’s style of humor was a perfect fit for Phil Hartman, especially in the 1998 film Small Soldiers. Through this simple line, you get a firm reminder that his character, Phil Fimple, is as ridiculous as he is funny; especially after the war he finds himself taking part in against the evil Commando Elite toys.
"Wake up Manhattan. Wake up Brooklyn. Wake up… the other three boroughs." - NewsRadio
Bill McNeal from NewsRadio is another one of Phil Hartman’s most iconic characters. A vain and petty news anchor, Hartman could deliver lines like these with a serious voice of authority; which only broke the audience at home all the more effectively. Seriously, what New Yorker forgets “the other three boroughs?”
“Since when does a soap opera control the future of the country?” - The Second Civil War
Political satire was another frontier that Phil Hartman was able to conquer, thanks in part to director Joe Dante’s 1997 HBO movie, The Second Civil War. What’s even wilder is, depending on who you talk to, this line has only gotten better with age.
“You don’t scare me! I’ve got chunks of guys like you in my stool!” - SNL
Not satisfied to do a mere impression of Frank Sinatra, the SNL sketch “The Sinatra Group” saw Phil taking on the role of The Chairman, hosting a discussion program. Which ended up seeing Ol’ Blue Eyes taking the fight to Billy Idol (Sting) with this quippy comeback.
“This one I like. I keep. This one displeases me.” - NewsRadio
An entire episode of NewsRadio saw Bill McNeal define his personality by his use of an ornamental cane. Triggering a feud where station news director, Dave (Dave Foley), steals and breaks his cane, Bill gets the upper hand by purchasing a whole supply of canes he evaluates at the end of Season 2’s “The Cane.” I really want to know why that last one displeased him so.
“As of this moment Lionel Hutz doesn’t exist. Say hello to Miguel Sanchez!” - The Simpsons
It didn’t matter how big or small the appearance was, any time Hartman appeared as Lionel Hutz, one of The Simpsons’s popular characters, was like winning the lottery. All sorts of shady legal practices would lead to some gems of dialogue; like this moment from the Season 5 episode “Marge on the Lam.” Who else would be as cheerful when burning a bunch of legal documents and assuming a new alias for protection?
“My name is John Johnson but everyone here calls me Vicki.” - So I Married An Axe Murderer
Cameos are candy for an acting talent such as Mr. Hartman. While he only has one scene in the Mike Myers rom-com, So I Married An Axe Murderer, Phil’s character John “Vicki” Johnson made his appearance as a tour guide at Alcatraz into a moment that people continue to quote with friends and fellow fans.
“Trust me my friend, me and my cane, when I find it, will find you! And…well, you get the idea.” - NewsRadio
The madness of Newsradio’s Bill McNeal knows know bounds, as seen in the Season 2 episode, “The Cane.” When an unknown co-worker has stolen his new favorite life prop, the normally calm radio personality turns into a bit of a tyrant. This comical threat borders on Bond villainy, as Bill’s sinister intonation promises repercussions.
“Sprechen Sie Sassy?” - SNL
“Sassy's Sassiest Boys” is a classic case of a Saturday Night Live sketch where the concept is deceptively simple, but the casting makes it work. Putting Hartman in the role of a teen heartthrob panel host, you’d be amazed how much mileage and variation the man gets out of using the word “Sassy.”
“You can’t bench press your way out of this one.” - Jingle All The Way
According to Mel Magazine’s oral history on Jingle All The Way, director Brian Levant admitted that one of Phil Hartman’s best lines from the film was a total improv. Sure enough, the moment where he tells Arnold Schwarzenegger that his might can’t overcome the predicament he’s put himself in was pure Hartman magic, and still plays like a charm.
“These books behind me don't just make the office look good, they're filled with useful legal tidbits just like that!” - The Simpsons
In one of The Simpsons’ best episodes, Season 3’s “Flaming Moe’s,” Lionel Hutz proves himself to be competent in a moment with Homer and Marge. Unsatisfied to leave it be, Lionel’s amazement that his law books actually contain precedent he can look up hilariously shows just how bad at his job he actually is.
“Don’t you trust your own brother? Right, no argument there.” - Blind Date
An underrated title in the realm of best Bruce Willis movies, the romantic comedy Blind Date puts our hero through a night of shenanigans he’ll never forget. And it all starts thanks to Willis’ Walter reaching out to his car salesman brother Ted, played by Phil Hartman, for help. This question should have been enough to warn our protagonist, but if he’d paid it any mind, would we still have gotten the movie we so richly enjoy?
"Don't try to confuse me with the facts!" - NewsRadio
This is the last thing you want to hear a news personality tell you in any context. Unless that person is NewsRadio’s Bill McNeal; in which case it’s another hysterical reason why his character became such a hit. Season 2’s episode “Houses of the Holy” saw Hartman utter this line with the greatest conviction, and if you’re not laughing by the time it lands, you may want to check your pulse.
“My robot programming prohibits me from harming humans, but I am starting to wonder if this circuitry could not be bypassed somehow." - SNL
Kudos are in order for SNL’s writers for adding the awesome Isaac Asimov deep cut in their sketch “Robot Repair.” Perfectly fitting with the Three Laws of Robotics, it’s a perfect vehicle for a monotone Phil to continually express increasing robotic frustration. Spoiler alert: our metallic friend gets his revenge in the end.
“Mr. Simpson, I was just going through your garbage and I couldn’t help overhearing that you need a babysitter.” - The Simpsons
Where’s a babysitter when you need one? Well, in The Simpsons Season 5 story “Marge on the Lam,” he turns out to be trash picking at the right place and time. Though Lionel Hutz isn’t exactly the best minder of children, he does come rather cheaply. So technically, he’s worth what you pay.
“Excuse me! You're not off the hook yet, there's just the little matter of the massive damage to my home, and my garage, and my audio-visual component system, and...this is good, thanks." - Small Soldiers
After the climactic action of Small Soldiers dies down, Phil Hartman’s Phil Fimpile is ready to take Globotech CEO Gil Mars (Denis Leary) to court for all he can grab. That is, until an apparently large sum of money shuts him up rather quickly, flipping Phil from rampage to reconciliation at the stroke of a pen.
“There’s ‘The Truth,’ and ‘The Truth!’” - The Simpsons
Springfield jack of all trades Lionel Hutz isn’t just a lawyer, but also a babysitter, and in Season 9’s “Reality Bites” a real estate agent. Teaching Marge Simpson (Julie Kavner) the difference between truths in a memorable conversation, all it took was two different gestures and a change of Hartman’s voice to indicate which version of “the truth” Red Blazer Realty was truly interested in.
“I missed an important occasion, but with the money I made from those two commercials, I was able to buy my infant son a pair of colored contact lenses.” - SNL
In his 1996 host’s monologue for SNL, Hartman showed his ever present ability to poke fun at his own image. Weaving a story of how he supposedly missed his son’s birth while doing commercial gigs, the former cast member nailed down the deadpan tone he was always known for presenting.
"I've argued in front of every judge in the state. Often as a lawyer." - The Simpsons
Lionel Hutz, while being one of The Simpsons’ most memorable characters, is a pretty bad lawyer. “Burns’ Heir,” an episode from Season 5, saw Lionel assuring Homer and Marge that he’d make sure Bart Simpson wouldn’t be adopted away by Mr. Burns (Harry Shearer). You can take two guesses as to what the official outcome was.
"Dave, when a person reaches a certain level of success in life, he finds he needs a loyal companion. Take Batman for example!" - NewsRadio
If any sitcom character would hire themselves an office butler, it’s NewsRadio’s Bill McNeal. Hartman’s hilarious sitcom character did just that in Season 4’s story entitled “The Secret of Management,” and was naturally asked by his boss, Dave, why he’d do such a thing. Which led to this keen insight into the eccentric ego of one Mr. McNeal.
“Is it the pills? The sheep? The ducks? Your wife?” - SNL
A barrage of questions flies between Phil Hartman and dear friend/SNL scene partner Jon Lovitz in the sketch “One More Mission: Acting Career.” With Hartman’s seemingly finished actor asking whether any of the factors listed above is the reason why he’s being sacked, Lovitz keeps it together while a frantic Phil gets even more ridiculous.
“It’s the part I was born to play, baby!” - The Simpsons
Everyone remembers Troy McClure’s white hot role in the musical “Stop the Planet of the Apes! I Want to Get Off!” from The Simpsons episode “A Fish Called Selma.” However, besides a powerhouse comedy musical performance from Phil Hartman, there’s a fantastic line read that encapsulates why the actor is such a comedy icon, as well as just how ridiculous Troy can be.
“There's gonna be a whole bunch of things we don't tell Mrs. Clinton. Fast food is the least of our worries, ok buddy?” - SNL
Playing presidents is something that Phil Hartman got comfortable doing on occasion, especially as a Saturday Night Live cast member. With the sketch “President Clinton at McDonald’s,” his impression of then president Bill Clinton checked two boxes with one bit; and this line set that tone early on in this comedic outing.
“I move for a bad court thingy.” - The Simpsons
Lionel Hutz is a lawyer who could make even the most hardened criminals second guess their lives. In The Simpsons’ Season 4 episode “Marge In Chains” Mr. Hutz tries to declare a mistrial to save his client. The only problem is, he doesn’t remember the correct terminology to do so.
“Kind of a downer, huh? Especially with everyone dying, and Matthew and I needing each other, and all of that.” - NewsRadio
NewsRadio’s Season 4 finale, “Sinking Ship,” is probably better known as “the Titanic episode.” WNYX was transplanted onto the ship of dreams; with Phil Hartman delivering some candid opening and closing remarks. What you read here is how the notable comedian brought the audience back to the present day, with a funny moment of faux somber energy.
“Jimmy, don’t make me have to kill you.” - SNL
What if President Reagan was a secretly capable villain of great scope and decision making? “President Reagan, Mastermind” tackled that question on Saturday Night Live, and it even had the former actor turned head of state contemplating the disposal of his friend Jimmy Stewart (Dana Carvey), so he could continue his evil deeds.
“If Lincoln was here, you think he’d let a bunch of orphans decide everything?” - The Second Civil War
Director Joe Dante was a perfect fit for Hartman’s comedic chops on more than one occasion. HBO’s satire The Second Civil War is just one of those examples, as Hartman’s President is given lines such as this one to deliver with an impeccably straight face. While the audience breaks, Hartman plays it cool and straight to the end.
“But don’t get her drunk. If you get her drunk, she loses control.” - Blind Date
Playing a literal game of telephone between his brother Walter and his wife Susie (Stephanie Faracy), Phil’s Blind Date character, Ted, takes what’s a simple warning and turns it into innuendo, with a grin you could practically hear over the phone.
“Nuclear warhead? What are you talking about?” - Small Soldiers
Phil Hartman’s untimely death in 1998 saw projects like Small Soldiers dedicated to his memory. And with that dedication came memories, like an outtake included as a post-credits tag that showed just how much fun Hartman had with material like this.
Through decades of laughter, the memory of this great comedian has lived on. With moments that span television and movies, it feels like both an accurate representation of the Hartman comedy legacy, and also not nearly enough.