Phil Hartman For the CD-i

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Phil Hartman was 49 when he was killed; were he alive today, he’d be 62. It’s heartbreaking to think of what he could have continued to contribute to the entertainment world. He had an inimitable style, summed up perfectly by Ken Tucker in an Entertainment Weekly memorial: “He could momentarily fool audiences into thinking he was the straight man, but then he’d cock an eyebrow and give his voice an ironic lilt that delivered a punchline like a fast slider.”

To be more straightforward: Hartman’s performances were so good that he could steal the show without trying (“SNL,” “The Simpsons“). He could save a terrible script from itself and turn an otherwise unwatchable film into something hilarious and memorable (Jingle All The Way, Houseguest). And he could sell anything. Hartman’s commercials (1-800-Collect, McDonald’s, Atari) were more entertaining than most television shows.

Case in point? Hartman’s early ’90s commercials for the Philips CD-i. They were discontinued 15 years ago and I think I want one. Goodbye, PS3!

(As a side note, why didn’t these things take off? Too ahead of their time? Some odd shortcomings that Phil isn’t making us aware of?)