I’ve always watched SNL and don’t understand why people love to hate on it so much. It’s been on forever, it’s never going to be as good as you think it was, you’re going to hate at least one cast member and there are always going to be sketches that suck. Shut up and watch, or just shut up.
When I think of Darrell Hammond I realized I could only picture him doing Bill Clinton and Sean Connery. I sort of knew he had been on the show for a while, but I couldn’t figure out what else he did. Picking up this book I realized that this makes sense because he was the impression guy. When they needed someone to be someone else, Hammond was the one to do it. He can do the voices, he studied the movements, and he was up for all of it. It’s kinda cool that I couldn’t remember which people he had played because he disappears into them. I’ve said “Lockbox.” in an Al Gore impression, but didn’t realize I was doing an impression of Hammond doing an impression of Al Gore. It’s a compliment that I didn’t realize what work was his because he did impersonations, right? Right??
I really liked the structure of this book, although other people struggled with it. It’s somewhat chronological so the themes jump around. He talks about his childhood, then doing stand up, then his addictions getting worse, then SNL, then flashbacks which takes him back in time to his childhood, then back to SNL. I liked how on one page he’d be remembering seriously fucked up stuff that happened to him when he was five, and then the next page was a list of famous people he had played on SNL and what it was like to meet them. And then the next page would be about some crazy woman who propositioned him, then back to the ER with another self-inflicted cut.
Wait, what? Self-inflicted cutting? Yep. Turns out Hammond is all sorts of broken. For a long time he’d been cutting himself, drinking to deal with feelings, and trying out different drugs. He’d live in different levels of addiction while dealing with fame and working like hell on his stand up and impersonations. He knew for a long, long time that something was wrong with him, but doctors couldn’t figure it out and psychiatric drugs weren’t helping. Still, he swallowed the pills faithfully and pushed on through the pain. Although he did stop from time to time after waking up screaming, then cutting himself wide open and needing to be brought to the ER. Again.
He is finally given the correct diagnosis of PTSD. With the help of therapy, starts to untangle the fear and blackness inside of him, which forces him to remember and confront what happened to him as a kid. It’s terrifying and sad and I want him to be OK.
Again, this is a memoir of all things, so while he’s talking about this journey, he’s also talking about what’s going on with SNL, what it’s like performing for the President as the President, and how he pissed off Hillary Clinton. He’s talking about being a dad, feeling like he’s not quite part of the cast at SNL (he almost never stayed for the closing credits), wanting to stay close to his dad, and baseball. He loves baseball. This ebb and flow of topics turned off a lot of readers, but it worked for me. There is a loose timeline that held it together and I like the way he told it. Maybe some people wanted to only know about SNL or only know about PTSD or only know about stand up, but he’s not only any of these things.
If you enjoy reading about people overcoming shitty childhoods, figuring out later in life what happened, and then actually doing something to get better, pick this one up. You get a bonus dose of guilt when he’s told that “Lockbox.” is what cost Al Gore the Presidency.