By Alejandra Enciso Guzmán
When the name “Darrell Hammond” is heard or read, the immediate association is with Saturday Night Live and comedy. Hammond holds the title for being the longest running cast member on the show (14 years), as well as for the most impressions by a single Saturday Night Live cast member: Bill Clinton, Regis Philbin, Dan Rather, John Travolta, Jesse Jackson, Richard Dreyfus, Jay Leno, Donald Trump and Sean Connery in the ever-popular “Celebrity Jeopardy” skits. He also has the distinction of being the person that has said the show’s catch phrase “Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night!” the most often.
In 2011, Hammond released his memoir “God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem.” It was so well received that Hammond scaled the piece to a live performance. “The Darrell Hammond Project,” co-written with Elizabeth Steins, is the result. Its world premiere under the direction of Christopher Ashley was held at the La Jolla Playhouse on January 31st.
“The Darrell Hammond Project” is a 90 minute one man show that touches more deeply than comedy sketches and television. Darrell narrates in an office/library/little boy room type setting his journey through comedy. It was comedy that enabled him to survive and achieve professional success.
The journey was not an easy one. From day one, the Florida born and raised comedian suffered abuse in his home–from having his fingers put in sockets to being cut with knives. The trauma triggered profound and complex psychological issues.
Treated by dozens of psychiatrists (seriously, more than 30) he developed addictions to alcohol and medication. As the monologue runs, Hammond describes his father as a strong, very strict man with hardly any displays of affection and his mother as absent most of the time. Hammond shows how their struggle with their own ghosts became a trigger for their behavior toward young Darrell.
Always surrounded by colors in his mind, the comedian knew each color reflected a character voice. The color he imagined inspired the voice of a character like Porky Pig for example. Audiences will have the chance to see and feel these colors and understand Hammond’s process thanks to David Weiner’s lighting design.
After seeing his 40th doctor and more than a month in therapy, Hammond began to experience a peace of mind. As the laughs arise with various Saturday Night Live video clips guided by Hammond’s funny and dark comedic humor, other feelings will storm in. The audience will want to know “Why?” and “How?”. This is a remarkable and inspiring story. It is also tough going to be made aware of how a parent who should represent (and does) the world –everything- to a little kid, can cause irreparable damage.
Darrell Hammond relives his memoir every night, with a backstage view of a man’s struggle through life, relying upon comedy as his balm and savior.
The “Darrell Hammond Project” is currently playing at the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre until Sunday March 8th. Tickets start at $15 dollars. There will be various surrounding events like Foodie Friday, Insider and Open Caption. To learn more about times and dates please click here.