The world of animation and entertainment has been dealt a sad blow as voice actor Johnny Hardwick, best known for his iconic role as the chain-smoking conspiracy theorist Dale Gribble on the long-running animated series “King of the Hill,” has passed away at the age of 64.
The news of Hardwick’s passing was confirmed by the Austin medical examiner’s office on Thursday. Although no immediate details about the cause of death were available, TMZ reported that he was found dead at his Austin home on Tuesday. Authorities have stated that no foul play is suspected.
Johnny Hardwick’s distinctive Texas drawl brought the character of Dale Gribble to life, endearing him to audiences throughout the show’s entire 13-season run from 1997 to 2010. In addition to his voice acting, Hardwick was also involved in the creative process behind the scenes, serving as a writer, story editor, and producer on the show.
“Dale Gribble” was an integral part of the Emmy-winning animated series King of the Hill, created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels. The show followed the lives of the Hill family in the fictional town of Arlen, Texas, and featured a cast of memorable characters brought to life by talented voice actors including Stephen Root, Lauren Tom, and Ashley Gardner.
King of the Hill creator Mike Judge, who also provided the voice of main character Hank Hill, paid tribute to Hardwick in a post shared on Instagram Thursday. “Sorry for everyone’s loss! We are gunna miss you Johnny! Sha sha and just like sand thru a pocket he’s the stars now,” Judge wrote.
Hardwick’s portrayal of Dale Gribble, the quirky next-door neighbor and close friend of propane salesman Hank Hill (voiced by co-creator Mike Judge), became one of the show’s most beloved characters. The chemistry between the characters and the humorous situations they found themselves in contributed to the show’s enduring popularity.
Beyond his work on King of the Hill, Johnny Hardwick’s talents extended to other creative endeavors. He launched a successful YouTube channel where he performed songs in character as Dale, delighting fans with his musical performances. This platform allowed him to stay connected with his audience and showcase his versatile skills.
Born in Houston in 1958, John Michael Hardwick pursued a degree in journalism from Texas Tech University before entering the world of comedy. He performed as a stand-up comedian in various clubs, including the Velveeta Room in Austin, and even became the first comic on Jon Stewart’s MTV show. While an NBC sitcom offer did not materialize as planned, his work on King of the Hill solidified his place in entertainment history.
Earlier this year, Hulu announced a revival of King of the Hill for streaming, and it was revealed that Hardwick would reprise his role as Dale Gribble. This would have marked a triumphant return for both the show and the beloved character, further solidifying Hardwick’s legacy in the world of animation.
In a statement, Hulu and 20th Television Animation said, “Johnny Hardwick was an incredibly beloved member of the King of the Hill family, whose tremendous talent, brilliant humor and friendship will be deeply missed by all who were fortunate enough to work with him over the past 25 years. Our deepest condolences go out to his friends and family as we mourn the loss of one of the animation greats. His voice gave life to one of our most iconic characters, and he will be truly missed.”
Hardwick did not complete his voice work on the King of the Hill revival before his death.
Johnny Hardwick’s contributions to entertainment, both in front of the microphone and behind the scenes, will continue to be celebrated by fans of King of the Hill and the broader animation community. His unique voice and comedic talents have left an indelible mark, and he will be remembered fondly for his dedication to his craft and the joy he brought to audiences worldwide.