A favorite of generations of viewers on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” Darrell Hammond’s life was not always a lot of laughs. His 2011 book, “God, If You’re Not Up There I’m ...,” 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 premieres at 9 p.m. Saturday.
You’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.
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.
What kind of reaction did you get from your parents when you became a “SNL” cast member and a well-known personality?
A. 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.
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.