This review was originally written for Epinions.com on January 29, 2012 and appears here as/is. I was in the United States when I wrote this. Seems crazy now!
A few weeks ago, actor and comedian Darrell Hammond was on an episode of Dr. Phil,talking about his new book, God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem. I usually scream at the TV when Dr. Phil is on, but I have to admit I enjoyed the episode starring Darrell Hammond, who is probably best known for being on Saturday Night Live for an amazing fourteen years, doing impressions of Bill Clinton and other political figures. I quit watching SNL many years ago, so I didn’t actually recognize Hammond on Dr. Phil’s stage. But when I saw him do a hilarious impression of Dr. Phil himself, I decided I wanted to buy his book. Off I went to Amazon.com, where it was being offered in print and for the Kindle.
Who is Darrell Hammond?
Darrell Hammond is a comedian and actor. He’s also an addict. The reason he was on Dr. Phil was because he’s spent some time in rehab, recovering from his attempts to self-medicate the pain resulting from a very painful childhood. Hammond reveals that his parents were very abusive. Growing up in Melbourne, Florida, Darrell Hammond was the son of a World War II veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and an abusive mother who happened to be very good at mimickry. Hammond reveals that he got his comedic gifts from his mother, the same woman who tortured him when he was coming of age.
Such an upbringing does not come without a price. Though he is a very successful comedian, Darrell used to drink constantly and abused cocaine and crack. He was also a “cutter”, slicing his skin to relieve his psychic pain. In a laid back, personable writing style, Hammond reveals everything as if he’s sitting next to you in your living room. He writes about the good– getting to work as a professional comedian with some of the biggest people in show business– and the bad– sinking to the depths of addiction and being arrested in the Bahamas. Hammond also includes pictures and they show up very clearly on the Kindle.
It took me awhile to get through Hammond’s book. That’s not because it wasn’t a good read. His story is a lot to digest. Even though his parents were abusive people, I can tell he still loves them. Toward the end of the book, he writes about visiting his dying father, who passed away in 2007 of cancer. As his dad lie in bed, missing an ear that was removed in an attempt to stop the cancer, Hammond sat by his side, remembering the good times he had with him. He has less to say about his mother, who died a couple of years ago. And yet, even though she put him through hell, his tone is never bitter. In fact, toward the end of the book, he offers some insight as to what people must do to get past anger. And his solution has nothing to do with justice or payback and everything to do with letting go.
I have noticed that a lot of really funny people usually have personal demons and trauma in their past. Some of the most hilarious people suffer from depression or addictions or both. Hammond is not bitter when he writes his story, because he’s expressed that bitterness in different ways… by abusing himself. And now he’s written about those times in a very compelling memoir.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be on SNL, you might also want to read Hammond’s book. He reveals a lot about what it was like to be discovered and how it was working with Tina Fey!
This is a good book for anyone struggling with addictions, either personally or through watching a loved one or a friend. I give it five stars.
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