December 16, 2014

Remembering Phil Hartman: YOU MIGHT REMEMBER ME

To be totally honest, I didn't really care for Phil Hartman's work.

In light of the circumstances around his passing, that's not the most endearing sentiment to have. Words like "genius" and "talent" get thrown around....but except for his work on NewsRadio, much of his work left me cold. It didn't help that SNL was approaching what it eventually became - a middlebrow "live" show that went off like clockwork without any sense of creative anarchy. So I approached reading Mike Thomas' You Might Remember Me with great curiosity, but not with great enthusiasm

The result: Mike Thomas presents a very intriguing portait of a man who may have been more comfortable portraying fictional characters than in his own skin.
In many ways, You Might Remember Me reflects HBO's Life and Death of Peter Sellers - both men seemed adept at playing a variety of characters, and whose personal lives had a great deal of turmoil. Thankfully, Thomas practices a great form of discretion with Hartman's life - it's a warts-and-all portrait that feels all the more human. Granted, Hartman led a more varied life than most people - starting as a graphic artist for record covers, early involvement with the Groundlings, moving onto television and (seemingly) progressing as a solid character actor.

When the tragic end comes, Thomas pulls no punches...but he also gracefull describes the aftermath and loss. (It's to his credit that Thomas doesn't dwell or speculate on what happened the night of Hartman's death, but provides as much detail as he reasonably can).

In the end, part of the frustration with You Might Remember Me is that Thomas' subject was also....well, tough to get to know. This isn't meant as a criticism of the book, and to Thomas' credit, he paints a pretty vivid portrait of Hartman's life. You Might Remember Me is a relatively brisk and easy read, but it also feels a bit unfinished....but since the book portrays an actor who was always on a quest for identity, that isn't a drawback - it's part and parcel of the narrative, and definitely worth exploring.
Highly recommended

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