The comedy world was shaken in late May 1998 when the news broke that SNL and Newsradio star Phil Hartman had died — especially given the tragic circumstances. As details emerged, fans of the funny man learned his wife, Brynn, had shot him to death before ultimately taking her own life. The murder-suicide was made all the more tragic by the fact that the couple’s two children were home that violent night that made them both orphans.
Two decades after losing both their parents, Sean and Birgen Hartman live a quiet life mostly out of the spotlight, but they each keep their dad’s memory alive in their own ways.
Phil Hartman’s daughter today is happily married.
Upon their parents’ deaths, Sean and Birgen, then 9 and 6 years old, respectively, were sent to live with their maternal aunt and her husband, Katharine and Mike Wright, in Wisconsin. To shield them from the media and allow them to grow up in relative obscurity, they were raised under a different last name.
Though some of Phil Hartman’s family initially opposed the move, they ultimately realized that Brynn Hartman’s family was not to blame for her actions on that fateful night. In a CBS report commemorating the 15th anniversary of the incident, Phil Hartman’s brother, John Hartman, discussed how there was some tension about who should raise Birgen and Sean.
“I started with my mother and said, ‘Ma, we have to do the right thing here. These people did not kill Phil. And they’re good people.’ I was trying to keep the two families as one,” he said.
Today, Sean is 31 and according to ABC News is “pursuing his dreams of being an artist and musician.” He reportedly lives in Oakland, California.
Birgen is 28, and she is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas. She received degrees in Journalism and Communication at the Minnesota university.
She tied the knot with her husband, Brandon, in 2018 in Italy. She has started a new business according to her uncle, Greg Omdahl.
Though both Hartman kids stay mostly out of the spotlight, Birgen did make an appearance at the SNL 40th Anniversary celebration in 2015. “It’s just heartwarming for me to see, after all these years, that he is still remembered and admired,” she said of the live special.
In 2017, she commemorated the anniversary of her parents’ deaths in an Instagram post.
“Normally I wouldn’t address this day on social media, but I just wanted to thank everyone for all of the thoughtful messages (and the beautiful flowers) I’ve received this weekend… from friends, family, fans… It truly means the world to me, and my parents would be so happy to know that such a supportive community still exists for us after all these years,” she wrote. “I don’t know what else to say, I’m just so grateful… It’s been a tough day but I certainly don’t feel alone. So thank you.”
Though everything is going well for Birgen now, it seems she, at one time, struggled with substance abuse issues like her late mother. However, according to her Instagram, she got sober in February of 2012.
Her updates to social media are sporadic, and she does very occasionally honor her late father. She also appears to be quite proud of her Canadian roots and became a dual citizen a few years ago.
Though they inherited Phil Hartman’s estate, Birgen and Sean aren’t trust fund kids.
Hartman’s will provided for each of his children, but he was thoughtful in how their trusts were set up to ensure they would not have everything handed to them.
The money would only become available to them as adults and even then “if and only if a bachelor’s degree was obtained from ‘a four year university accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges or some comparable nationally recognized organization.'”
It also stipulated that they would not receive their inheritance in one lump sum but in three stages, the first at age 25 (or upon completion of a four-year degree), then half the remaining balance at age 30 and the final installment at age 35.
The estate also provided for their guardians, though not a huge sum. The 50-page document granted $50,000 from the estate to their guardians.