On Friday, August 19th, Saturday Night Live‘s Darrell Hammond will headline A Tribute to Lost Laughs, An Evening of Awareness and Entertainment, a comedy benefit that supports Facing Addiction and the Young Leadership team of Facing Addiction, a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to “creating the most trusted nationally recognized place to turn when facing addiction.” The benefit will be held at Sag Harbor Cinema.
Hammond has openly spoken about his battle with addiction, and the comedian will be the subject of a new documentary feature film by Ripple Effects Films, Inc., in association with Artemis Rising and in partnership with Academy Award winning producers Geralyn Dreyfous and Regina Skully. “Through Darrell’s inspiring story, along with emerging research, the film will show that childhood trauma is predominant as the root cause of addiction,” noted Michelle Esrick, the film’s director. “If we simply focus on the drug use, we are only treating the smoke and not the fire.” The film is scheduled to be released in 2017.
We caught up with a candid Hammond to discuss his memoir, Donald Trump, Saturday Night Live and more.
You revealed your addition struggle in your memoir, God If You’re Not Up There, I’m F–ked. Did you find it difficult or more cathartic to write the book?
DH: I didn’t write that book as well as I wanted to – it was a pretty well written book that sold well and a lot of stuff has happened as a result of it – it’s just that what I didn’t make clear in the book is what I think addition is. Addiction in my mind is linked to trauma and I can only tell my story, but it’s not just something that happens to someone one day. It comes from somewhere really specific and I could never make any progress until I identified exactly what my personal trauma was. The other thing that kind of bothered me about the fact that I did put it out there was because I’m involved in programs that don’t want you putting that out there. I’ve made mistakes, but my heart was in the right place. I didn’t do that part well enough. Maybe someone else’s story is like my story. Maybe they have trauma that they had to get over and process and get therapy for before they could ever have a shot at life. The worst thing that happened to me was I thought when I put the substance down everything would be fine, and it got ten times worse, but that’s just my story.
Did you write the book with the hope of helping someone who had a similar story or was going through a difficult time?
DH: Well, yeah. I do shows and raise money – not just for addiction – for women’s shelters, for children’s advocacy groups. If I have time in my schedule, I’ll come do a show because I feel like I lost so much stuff because I didn’t actually understand what was wrong with me. And then you have this hopeless feeling of was it all for nothing? You don’t want it to be all for nothing. That’s why I wrote my book – which was a New York Times bestseller. That’s why I wrote a Broadway show, which is being developed. Because I lost stuff, lost stuff I didn’t know how to hold on to because I didn’t really understand what was happening to me. You just feel helpless. The thing that I’m most concerned with is that people think that I’ve graduated. I haven’t graduated. I live a really boring, studied daily life. It’s not boring, I’m joking about that, but it’s kind of what I do every day. I do something towards recovery because to me, there’s a great doctor named Carol Sheppard who said that “addiction and trauma are first cousins. They work together.” Until I started approaching my life like that, I couldn’t make any progress.
Why did you feel it was important to support Facing Addiction’s A Tribute to Lost Laughs, An Evening of Awareness and Entertainment benefit?
DH: The truth is, in my life, there was always someone willing to help me and they didn’t charge me. There was always someone significant that came in out of nowhere that said, “Let me help you.”
What will your performance cover?
DH: I’ll tell stories that are stranger than fiction about the problems that I got into, and they’re true. They sound like jokes, but they’re not jokes. They actually happened. And then I’ll talk about being on SNL and all the famous people.
The event is described as “providing hope and encouragement through laughter to those who are currently facing addiction and traveling the road to recovery, or who want to learn more.” Did comedy and laughter have a role in your recovery?
DH: Words that I wrote or came out of my mouth gave me a sense of self-worth that I couldn’t find anywhere else, for a while. Of course, I had to find it somewhere else. But in the beginning, maybe, I didn’t have that. I was pretty alone.
You spent 14 years on Saturday Night Live – the longest tenure of any cast member – and now you’ve taken over as the announcer. What is it about SNL that made you want to return?
DH: Well, SNL was just an easy job. And then [Donald] Trump happened and they asked me to come back and they asked me to play Trump. And then Hillary [Clinton] ran and they asked me to play Clinton. That was not on the schedule.
What do you think of this year’s election?
DH: I think that when I hear the leading journalists say they’ve never seen anything like it, I feel like I would have to go back to college to understand exactly what’s going on. You’d have to have a degree in sociology, American history, military history, biochemistry, warfare, economics. I mean it’s pretty complicated when I watch it and then I think I’m just like everyone else, following it along as best I can.
So when SNL returns, will you appear as Donald Trump again?
DH: You’d have to ask them that. If that’s something they still want me to do in the fall, I’d love to do it.
Your impersonation of Donald Trump has earned rave reviews. How do you manage to capture his personality so well?
DH: I think because he let me spend so much time with him. His family was so welcoming. He would have me to his office. I spent time with him. Once you spend time with the person, it becomes easier to absorb and play them. I had some fun times with him.
A Tribute to Lost Laughs, An Evening of Awareness and Entertainment will take place on Friday, August 19th from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $50 for students (21-years-old and under), $250 for open seating, and $500 for reserved seating.
Sag Harbor Cinema is located at 90 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit www.eventbrite.com.