In 1998, the “Saturday Night Live” performer was murdered in their home in Los Angeles by his wife, Brynn Omdahl, who struggled with substance abuse. The incident occurred in 1998.

However, the iconic variety sketch show has seen tragedy befall a fair number of its alumni. Saturday Night Live has produced far too many legendary comedy actors and long, fruitful careers for its title to lend itself to any curse; however, many of its alumni have been affected by the tragedy. There have been very few catastrophes that have shocked or broken people’s hearts, such as the death of Phil Hartman, who his wife murdered while he was sleeping in the wee hours of the night on May 28, 1998.

Hartman was an unlikely comedy star

In contrast to late stars such as John Belushi and Chris Farley, who were larger than life, or Gilda Radner, who was an iconic original, Hartman was a versatile everyman who was able to mix subtle charm and smarm into creative characters while nailing impressions of the rich, famous, and powerful. Hartman was a naturally reserved, educated individual and had a successful run as a graphic designer. He shifted to comedy after offering to go on stage at a performance by the legendary Groundlings ensemble in Los Angeles.


“I have never seen an audience member come up with that passion and intensity before…

Tracy Newman, a comedian and one of the original members of The Groundlings, remarked to ABC many years later that the show “was like a hurricane struck that stage, and I mean that in a positive sense.”

Because of how impressed they were, they invited Hartman to join their travelling company while he attended classes with them in Los Angeles. He was active, a natural showman, and a great writer; he collaborated with Paul Reubens in creating the Pee-wee Herman character, and he co-wrote the screenplay for the first Pee-wee movie, Pee-Big wee’s Adventure. He proved to be more than simply lively.

Later, his Groundlings and SNL castmate Jon Lovitz told a biographer that “whatever he was going to imagine or say was nothing you could imagine or think of.” Lovitz was one of the comedian’s close friends. “He was capable of making any voice, playing any character, and changing the appearance of his face without the need of cosmetics. He reigned supreme over the Groundlings.”

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Phil Hartman; Photo: Dave Bjerke/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Joining ‘Saturday Night Live’ made Hartman a star

In 1986, Hartman became a member of the Saturday Night Live cast, just about when the show’s founder, Lorne Michaels, reclaimed creative control of the program. Even in that setting, Hartman was an instant smash thanks to his characters, such as the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, and his hit impressions of famous people, such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Charlton Heston, and Ed McMahon. When he departed Saturday Night Live in 1994, he had already won an Emmy for his work as a writer, been nominated for another Emmy for his work as a performer, and was widely regarded as the most significant cast member of a show that he had helped resuscitate. In addition, Hartman was a regular cast member on The Simpsons, where he provided the voices for some characters, one of which was the B-movie actor Troy McClure.

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After he could not launch his variety series, he joined the cast of the sitcom NewsRadio, in which he played an egotistical and ignorant radio news anchor.

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“Saturday Night Live” cast photo in 1993. (Front row L-R): Rob Schneider, David Spade and Melanie Hutsell; (Back row L-R): Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, Julia Sweeney, Ellen Cleghorne, Mike Myers and Adam Sandler.; Photo: NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

The comedian had a rocky love life

Despite all his success in front of the camera, Hartman found his personal life more challenging. Between 1970 and 1972, and then again between 1982 and 1985, he was married for a short period. On stage, though, he exuded an air of magnetic charm, but his off-stage demeanour was not always as vivacious and outgoing. Hartman was notorious for keeping a low profile, even to an annoying degree.

According to his second wife, Lisa Jarvis, who spoke to ABC about their experience, “My feeling of Phil was that he was truly two people.” “He was the type of guy who liked to sketch, write, think, create, and come up with ideas,” we were told. After a successful career as an actor and performer, he withdrew into seclusion.

After going through a difficult divorce with Jarvis, Hartman didn’t take long to meet Brynn Omdahl, the woman who would eventually become his third wife.

In an interview, Mike Rogers, the man who wrote his biography, remarked, “His relationships would always start out extremely strongly – tremendous emotionality, intense eroticism — and then they would always fizzle out.” “I mean, when it came to Phil, he was always looking for something new and exciting, and he possessed a true artist’s sense for beauty,”

Brynn, who had recently relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting and modelling, possessed a stunning appearance. She acquired a dependency on cocaine due to the difficult circumstances she faced in the ruthless world of the entertainment industry. But in 1986, when she went on a blind date with Hartman, she had just completed her treatment and was clean and sober. After a year of dating, the couple tied the knot.

Hartman and Brynn’s relationship started strong but soon began to crack

According to what Mr Hartman shared with his family and friends at that time, he was never happier than he was in the middle of the 1990s. The Hartmans had a son named Sean and a daughter named Birgen. However, the disparity in their degrees of accomplishment and Hartman’s tendency toward aloofness produced problems.

According to what Thomas told ABC, “But as the months go on, the cracks begin to show, and Phil does what he did with his past two relationships — he begins to withdraw emotionally.” “But as the months go on, the cracks begin to emerge,” “From that point on, their relationship would be defined by a cycle of conflict resolution that consisted of fights followed by apologies,”

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Even though she had been sober for several years, Brynn struggled with issues related to her explosive temper and her tendency toward jealousy. Brynn did not respond politely to a note of congratulations that had been sent to Hartman and his previous wife after the birth of their son from Hartman’s first wife.

Jarvis said, “I got back a letter from Brynn that was hair-curling, furious, and rageful, and it [also] contained a death threat.” “The gist of it was, ‘Don’t ever f*****g get near me or my family or I will hurt you,'” the witness said. I do not want to hear from you ever again…never, ever, ever come near us, or you will truly regret it.'”

Steve Small, Hartman’s attorney and a close friend, quoted in the Los Angeles Times, said, “She had difficulties regulating her wrath.” “By losing her cool, she was able to attract attention. Phil claimed that there were occasions when he had to “hold her back.”

Small claims that Hartman would frequently put an end to their arguments by retreating to their bedroom and falling asleep. He did this because he preferred to let her cool down throughout the night. Brynn resumed her previous behaviours of drinking and doing cocaine.

Small recalled Hartman telling him, “I go into my cave and she throws explosives to bring me out,” and Hartman had told Small that.

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Flowers outside the Hartman’s home the day after the murder-suicide; Photo: John Chapple / Contributor

The couple was fighting on the night of the murder-suicide

By the end of May 1998, Brynn had been in and out of treatment centres as she attempted to kick her addiction to the drugs and alcohol that, when combined with her medication for depression, caused her to have aggressive outbursts.

After returning home from having dinner with a friend on May 27, she had one of these outbursts when she got back into her car and drove home. Her buddy later told People that she had two beers and did not appear unhappy. After the argument started, Hartman took refuge in their bedroom again.

The couple owned a pair of firearms, part of a modest collection that Brynn had started amassing after they relocated from New York City to Los Angeles. She retrieved a.38 Smith & Wesson from the metal lockbox they kept in the closet at approximately two in the morning and shot Hartman many times in the head and chest while he was sleeping in bed, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and boxer shorts. Instantaneously, he passed away.

Brynn called her buddy Ron Douglas while she was in fits of laughter an hour after she had consumed some other alcohol. She informed him that Hartman had departed for the evening and had left a letter for her stating that he would return later on in the evening. Douglas urged her to resume her sleep, but she did not take his advice and remained awake.

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Instead, around twenty minutes later, Brynn came up to his front door, reeking of booze and in a frenzied state. He was upset but also concerned and smart enough not to test her patience, so he invited her into his home instead of provoking her anger. She was so exhausted that she immediately passed out on the living room floor. Douglas woke her up because he was concerned that she had taken too much of the substance. After he did so, she immediately ran to the bathroom, where she threw up multiple times. Brynn also confessed to him on multiple occasions that she was the one who had murdered her husband; however, he did not trust her confession even when she showed him the murder weapon since Douglas had miscalculated the number of bullets that were in the chamber.

She eventually got herself together to the point that she could drive home, but she requested that Douglas accompany her the entire way. She contacted her friend Judy while she was driving and confessed to her. Judy took her confession more seriously and drove to the Hartman residence as quickly as possible.

The first ones there were Brynn and Douglas. When Douglas reached the top of the stairs and went into the Hartmans’ bedroom, he discovered a gruesome scene that convinced him that his friend had committed the inconceivable act. He placed a call to 9-1-1 to report that Hartman had been murdered.

Brynn’s pals arrived just as the cops were racing toward the house to investigate the situation. They worked to get Sean, 9, and Birgen, 6, out of the house, and Sean told them that the gunshots had sounded like someone slamming a door repeatedly.

The presence of the LAPD signalled the beginning of the end for whatever had been going on. Brynn hid from the authorities by locking herself in the bedroom, where she sat close to the body of her recently deceased husband, and placing a phone call to her sister. Brynn hung up the phone with her sister as soon as she heard the police knocking on the door, then she shot herself.

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