A favorite of generations of viewers on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, Darrell Hammond hasn’t always had a life filled with laughter. His 2011 book, God, If You’re Not Up There I’m [Expletive], revealed a childhood of abuse by his mother. It never derailed his dreams of being a comic whose specialty is dead-on impersonations of Bill Clinton and others. With 14 years on SNL, he is credited with being the longest-running cast member. The 58-year-old comic is a judge on ABC’s new series Sing Your Face Off, which airs at 8 p.m. Saturday.
1You’re famous for your impersonations. Will that help you as a judge on Sing Your Face Off ?
The contestants are doing impersonations and I know a couple of things about doing them, so hopefully it will help. I actually do demonstrate a couple of times how to do Dr. Phil or how to do Sonny Bono or Sonny and Cher.
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2 You were so candid in your book. Any regrets about putting it all out there?
No, why? Something happened to me that was really bad and I didn’t have anything to do with it. It happened to me. It’s a story that I always wanted to tell. I wanted to wait until I wasn’t on SNL anymore because I didn’t want to embarrass the producers there who had been really good to me over the years. I also wanted to wait until my mom died, because I was really scared of her.
3What kind of reaction did you get from your parents when you became an SNL cast member and a well-known personality?
All of a sudden they were all about me for the first time. Well, actually, my dad had always been all about me, but it was hard for him to show a lot of — he was a great soldier, you know? He was a decorated war hero and he brought the battle wounds home with him. He was shell-shocked, but he was very proud. When I actually got SNL, I invited them both to New York City, and Tom Hanks gave us his hotel room at the Paramount Hotel. They stayed there and had a very good time.
4You do say in the book that your mother did not want to talk about the abuse she had inflicted on you.
When I tried to talk to her about it, she said, ‘Don’t ever call us again. We are certainly never going to call you again.’ And she hung up on me. That was it until 9-11.
5 Considering what you went through, how do you think you were able to develop such a great sense of humor?
I don’t really know. The truth is, making a crowd of strangers laugh hard is like a drug. I mean, that’s part of it. I guess I was kind of funny. My dad was a really funny guy. He was a funny guy when he wasn’t miserable. I got the humor from him and I got the impressions from my mom. She could talk like other people probably better than I could.
— Patrician Sheridan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette