'King of the Hill' Voice Actor Johnny Hardwick Dead at 64

The Emmy winner voiced Dale Gribble for the show's entire 13-year run

Photo (left): Johnny Hardwick (Facebook)

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Aug 10, 2023

Johnny Hardwick — the American voice actor, comedian, writer and producer known best for voicing Dale Gribble in King of the Hill — has died. 

Hardwick was found unresponsive in his Texas home Tuesday (August 8) by law enforcement after they were called to perform a welfare check on the voice actor, TMZ reports. A cause of death has yet to be determined. He was 64.

Hardwick performed the role of Dale Gribble — the paranoiac pest exterminator who is a friend and neighbour of protagonist Hank Hill — for King of the Hill's entire 13-year run, appearing in 257 of 258 episodes. He also served as a producer on the show, winning an Emmy in 1999 for Outstanding Animated Program (for programming one hour or less).

A native of Austin, TX, Hardwick began his comedy career performing standup in the early '90s, appearing on shows including Evening at the Improv and The Jon Stewart Show. 

As he told The Austin Chronicle in 1999, one such comedy gig in Los Angeles proved instrumental in meeting King of the Hill co-creators Mike Judge and Greg Daniels.

"I was doing a comedy showcase out in L.A. and Greg Daniels happened to be there with his wife," Hardwick recalled. "So I happened to be on this stage talking about my dad in Texas, and Greg just sort of hired me as a writer. And then, after a series of incredibly lengthy auditions, I ended up with the part of Dale Gribble."

Hardwick added that the part of Dale Gribble had initially been offered to Daniel Stern, though, "apparently, he wanted a whole bunch of money and they weren't willing to negotiate with him, so I ended up getting the part ... I don't think he had the imagination to see what the show could be."

As for his own character development, Hardwick continued, "I had some kind of epiphany while listening to William S. Burroughs one night and I just got it. I knew what Dale looked like from the start, but that was all we had. I wasn't sure how he'd sound.

"I thought that in the pilot he was written to be pretty dumb — he was mispronouncing things and all kinds of weird stuff. I ended up kind of basing his attitude on if he thought he was Jack Nicholson but he wasn't, or if he just thought he was the coolest guy around, like Matthew McConaughey's character in Dazed and Confused. The thing that they did have in Mike's original pilot was that he was a conspiracy person, which I thought was a great touch."

Hardwick was also active on YouTube, uploading videos as Rusty Shackleford — an alias of Gribble's — and often donning the same orange Mack Trucks cap and mirrored sunglasses as his King of the Hill character. His works also included parodies of popular songs rewritten and performed as Gribble. 

In February, it was reported that a King of the Hill revival was in the works at Hulu, with the original voice cast returning. 

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