Rare posthumous recording from the 1970s, “Phil Hartman’s Flat TV,” to receive animation treatment

In 1997, Mike Scott was a teen-aged aspiring comedian who wrote to Phil Hartman seeking advice about entering the world of show business.

Sixteen years later, Scott is helping preserve and share a rare piece of Hartman’s comedic legacy, a multi-voice album the late comedian recorded before he made it big via Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons and NewsRadio.

Worker Studio Animation announced it had secured an option to animate the 22 audio tracks of “Phil Hartman’s Flat TV.” There already is a Facebook page for Phil Hartman’s Flat TV: The Movie. Hartman recorded the sketch comedy album back in the 1970s when he was just a young member of The Groundlings, before not only SNL but also his involvement with Pee-wee Herman. The album only surfaced and released as a CD in 2002 by his brother, music agent John Hartmann of Leo/Hartmann, four years after Phil was shot and killed by his wife in a murder-suicide.

Hartman’s handwritten reply to Scott resurfaced online in 2011, and bounced around the Internet until it reached another of Phil’s brothers, Paul Hartmann, and his business partner, Angel Rosenthal. Scott would join them in their effort to earn Hartman a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. Now Scott works for Worker Studio, which is animating “Phil Hartman’s Flat TV.” The record follows the daily life and American culture of the fictional Sphincter family in the late 1970s.

John Hartmann said of his younger brother’s record: “Wrapped up in the hectic schedule of writing and acting on SNL, he forgot all about the album. In the interim, the recording studio closed and the tapes were stashed and forgotten in a backyard storage unit in San Fernando Valley. After Phil’s death, 25 years later, we searched far and wide and finally found the original masters. This is Phil at his funniest, without the burden of time, censors or committees. It’s pure genius.”

And from the other real-life Michael T. Scott, partner and head of story at Worker Studio, this reflection: “Phil was not just a tremendous influence on my comedic sensibilities; he had a hand in personally molding them with his generous and thoughtful feedback. To think that I’m getting a chance to collaborate with one of my heroes is very surreal, especially given these circumstances. It’s an honor to be bringing Phil back into the forefront of the public consciousness. I’m thrilled to be working with both the people that knew him best and an extremely talented and creative team to make this happen.”

Here is one of the tracks off of the album, “Phil Hartman’s Flat TV.” This is “You Bet Your Life.”

The full album:

Related: John Hartmann spoke to the CBS affiliate (Ch. 2) in Los Angeles for a piece that aired last week about Phil Hartman.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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