For some reason I was watching Elf last week. Maybe because it was on. Maybe because I was hiding from In-Laws. Who knows. Either way, I'm not usually down with Christmas, being one of the Christ-killers and all, but I'm ok with that movie. Is it because of Zooey Deschanel? She plays her part, certainly. But really it's all Will Ferrell. And then I remembered a conversation I had in college, while he was still on SNL.
The question was: who is your better Everyman, Will Ferrell, or Phil Hartman? This was obviously before Will Ferrell became WILL FERRELL, but still, he's got a bit of that regular Joe appeal. He's awkward, his body is funny looking, and we know his body is funny looking because he has no issue whatsoever with letting the world see it. And then encouraging the world to giggle at untoned hairy chest. Plus he had Adam McKay as his own Cyrano, writing amazing characters and lines for him.
But Phil Hartman... Everyone who loves the funny loves Phil Hartman. He was plain, and brilliant, and dumb, and clever, and he did high comedy, and he did impressions.
Here, look at some clips of these magnificent comedic gods. And I know I forgot Robert Goulet, and More Cowbell, and Colon Blow. And I would have Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer but Lorne Michaels can sometimes be a douche, and there's no footage online that I could find in 10 minutes' searching. Let us also not forget Kap’n Karl. Alas, no video, but you should find it and bask in the glory of Phil Hartman as a saucy seacaptain, and pre-public masturbation Pee Wee Herman. But anyway, some highlights:
Phil Hartman, Frank Sinatra:
Newsradio: Real Deal Bill McNeal
The Simpsons: Troy McClure
Lionel Hutz, attorney at law
So I Married an Axe Murderer.
Will Ferrell, Perfect Cheer
Ron Burgundy, you magnificent hunk of mustache
Now, because of his evil, whorish wife, we'll never know the kind of leading man career Phil Hartman would have had on the big screen. But I think he'd have been glorious. Will Ferrell, for all his above-mentioned regular...ness, is totally whacko. You can see it in his eyes. Phil Hartman, though, he could play anyone. Sea captain with a love for some painted-up french chick? He's your man. Radio personality with a god complex? Phil Hartman redefined the standard office blowhard. The only person who's come close since is Dwight Schrute, and even Rainn Wilson has a little too much Will Ferrell in him.
I freely acknowledge that this is some Freedarko-style argumentation, all potential over actualization. But if I want to cast a mild-mannered accountant who's sick of everyone calling him "Numbers," and eventually leads his office in a coup over the regional manager, I'm going with Phil.
Unless he has to get naked for some reason. Then it's all Will Ferrell.