Born: October 8, 1955
Birthplace: Melbourne, Florida, U.S.
Darrell Clayton Hammond (born October 8, 1955) is an American actor, stand-up comedian and impressionist. He was a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1995 to 2009.
Upon his departure, Hammond, at age 53, was the oldest cast member in the show's history. Hammond made more SNL appearances than any other cast member and impersonated more than 107 celebrities, with Bill Clinton as his most frequent impression.
Hammond held the record for most impersonations by an SNL cast member with 107, until he was surpassed by Kenan Thompson on May 3, 2014. As of December 10, 2011, he had appeared on the show eight times since leaving the cast.
On September 19, 2014, Hammond was announced as the new announcer of SNL, replacing Don Pardo, who had died the month before. In May 2015, he began portraying Colonel Sanders in television commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken, although he was replaced by Norm Macdonald, also a former SNL cast member, just three months later.
Hammond was born in Melbourne, Florida, the son of Margaret and Max Hammond. Hammond has claimed he was severely abused by his mother, contributing to his lifelong struggles with depression and substance abuse; his father, dealing with his own psychological issues resulting from his military service during World War II, often drank heavily and acted out violently. Hammond found as a child that doing impressions was the only thing he did his mother liked.
He played baseball in high school and at Brevard Community College. In high school, he was a teammate of San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy. He went on to attend the University of Florida, where he graduated in 1978 with a degree in advertising and a 2.1 GPA. He credits UF theater professor David Shelton for encouraging his work. After completing college, Hammond moved to New York City where he worked as a waiter, studied at HB Studio, did roles in theater productions, performed one set at a comedy club at age 26, and then returned to Florida, where he became a voiceover artist in the Orlando area.
Hammond was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1995 to 2009. He previously held the record for the longest consecutive tenure of any SNL cast member in the show's history (14 seasons), until he was surpassed by Kenan Thompson in 2017.
He also holds SNL records for the second most impressions by a single cast member (107, as of the Zac Efron/Yeah Yeah Yeahs episode), beat only by Thompson, and also for the most times saying the show's catchphrase "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" to start the show (70 times, beating out Dana Carvey).
He is best known on the show for impersonating Bill Clinton, as well as Al Gore, Donald Trump, John McCain, Regis Philbin, Dick Cheney, Chris Matthews, Phil Donahue, Phil McGraw, Ted Koppel, John Travolta, Jesse Jackson, Geraldo Rivera, and Sean Connery, in the recurring "Celebrity Jeopardy!" skits. His impression of President Bill Clinton is currently the most frequent SNL impression of all time, appearing in 87 sketches over 14 years in the cast and numerous cameos. After the first 2000 presidential debate, Gore's campaign staff made him watch Hammond's impression so he could understand why he had left a negative impression with viewers. Hammond also impersonated SNL announcer Don Pardo, filling in for Pardo on occasions when the announcer was unavailable.
After the end of the 34th season, Hammond retired from the show after a record-breaking 14 years as a repertory player. Hammond was the last SNL cast member from the 1990s to leave the show. After leaving the show, he has made multiple cameo appearances. Hammond also holds the record for most shows of any SNL cast member, 280 (272 as a cast member and 8 cameos since).
In 2014 Hammond took over the announcer role on SNL starting with the 40th-season premiere, replacing Pardo, who had died that August. Since he began as announcer, he has also appeared in skits numerous times reprising his Clinton and Trump impersonations.
The following season Hammond reappeared on the show, doing his impression of Trump as the Apprentice host began performing well in the Republican primaries and Taran Killam's take on the candidate failed to resonate with viewers. He moved back to New York in 2016 after Trump won the nomination, expecting to be appearing on a weekly basis during the election. However, Lorne Michaels decided instead to go with Alec Baldwin's impression, since it more effectively captured the contemporary Trump.
In the late 1980s, Hammond gained fame for his impersonations of Elmer Fudd and other Looney Tunes characters in the comedy single "Wappin'." The song was popular enough with Dr. Demento listeners to be included on the show's 20th-anniversary compilation.
Hammond is a frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show. He has also guest-starred in episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent; his were serious roles in the episodes in question. He had his own stand-up comedy special on Comedy Central: Comedy Central Presents Darrell Hammond. Hammond can frequently be seen at The Comedy Cellar in New York City.
In the summer of 2007, Hammond made his Broadway theatre debut, playing the role of Vice Principal Douglas Panch in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. In 2009, Hammond had a guest starring role on the FX drama Damages. The same summer, Hammond appeared with Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, and Donald Trump in an Oreo commercial, where he does an impression of Trump.
Beginning in May 2015, Hammond began playing the role of fast-food mascot Colonel Sanders in an ad campaign for KFC, until Norm Macdonald replaced him on August 17, 2015.
Since returning to Los Angeles in 2017, Hammond has appeared in an episode of Criminal Minds, At Home with Amy Sedaris and a Friday Night Lights spoof series on sports website The Kicker.
Hammond married his wife, Elizabeth, on May 9, 1990. The couple divorced in the early 1990s, remarried in 1997 and divorced again in 2012. They had one daughter, Mia, born in 1998. During a 2012 appearance on the Imus in the Morning radio program, Hammond revealed that the couple was in the process of divorcing. Hammond was seen with another woman several times in May and June 2011, prompting speculation about their marriage which ended.
Hammond has admitted to struggling with alcoholism and cocaine abuse. The death of a close friend in 1991 led to a relapse of drug and alcohol abuse. Hammond regularly wears all black when not performing as an homage to another friend who took his own life in 1992. After suffering another relapse in 2009, Hammond went to rehab.
In August 2011, Hammond filed a lawsuit against Jose Mendez and Dona Monteleone after a car accident in which he was the passenger. Monteleone, who was driving Hammond's vehicle at the time of the accident, is a Manhattan real estate agent.
During an October 2011 interview with CNN, Hammond revealed that his mother had brutally abused him during his childhood. This trauma from abuse led to cutting, several hospitalizations due to psychiatric issues, and diagnoses which initially included bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder.
Hammond says that he was medicated throughout his tenure on Saturday Night Live, and that he cut himself backstage and was once taken from the studio to a psychiatric ward. The incident helped him come to terms with what he and the doctor who treated him realized was his fundamental issue, the posttraumatic stress disorder lingering from his abusive childhood. Just prior to his 2000 appearance as Al Gore in a sketch parodying that year's first presidential debate, he had a panic attack over not remembering his lines. After cutting himself up the length of the arm and putting a gauze pad over it, he felt better and gave a performance so effective that Gore's campaign staff made him watch it to understand why he had aroused negative reactions in some viewers.
Harper Collins published Hammond's memoir, God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked, in 2011. It is an account of his abusive childhood, psychiatric issues, struggles with substance abuse, and experiences on Saturday Night Live. In 2015 he adapted it into a one-man play starring himself, directed by Christopher Ashley, which debuted in San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse to positive reviews. The director is hoping to bring it to Broadway, although Hammond would prefer someone else, particularly Jim Carrey or Kevin Spacey, play him instead, as it was so stressful he had to be hospitalized twice during the Los Angeles run.
In 2015 Hammond revived his Trump impression on SNL, after Taran Killam's take failed to gain traction. The following year he returned to New York after five years, expecting that with Trump having received the Republican presidential nomination that year, he would be appearing on the show more in the fall. When Alec Baldwin replaced him, he was so shattered that Antabuse and a beta blocker were prescribed to him to prevent a relapse of his addiction issues. Hammond and his girlfriend eventually moved back to Los Angeles, where reminders of Baldwin's Trump impression were not so ubiquitous.
In the late 1980s, Hammond worked briefly as a stand-up comedian on Premier Cruise Line ships.
One evening, while the ship was docked in the Bahamas, Hammond visited a restaurant, where he consumed the equivalent of 16 shots of rum. He claimed that a man repeatedly pestered him throughout the evening to take a dollar bill with trace amounts of cocaine on it. When the comedian left the bar to use the restroom, the man followed him into the stall and told him, "I think you should take this with you." Believing he was about to be mugged, he relented, and the man placed the bill inside Hammond's pocket. Local police were waiting outside the restroom and quickly arrested him. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration later told Hammond that the episode had been a setup, and that local authorities regularly entrapped American tourists; he spent a weekend in a crude jail cell. Hammond was released after his father traveled to the Bahamas and paid $3,000 for his son's release.
Hammond first publicly mentioned the incident while acting as a guest on a 1997 episode of the radio show Loveline; the story was again mentioned when he returned to Loveline in 2000 and 2004, as well as during an appearance on the Opie & Anthony show in 2012. Tina Fey and Tim Meadows, two friends and coworkers of Hammond's, said in 2004 they had not previously heard the story.