FORT WORTH Longtime Saturday Night Live star Darrell Hammond is known for making people laugh, but it’s his personal journey with drugs, alcohol and physical abuse that will draw a Fort Worth audience.
Hammond is visiting Fort Worth as the featured speaker of the 25th Annual Stars in Recovery Luncheon today. The event, organized by the Recovery Resource Council, brings celebrities to Fort Worth to share their biographies, struggles and personal victories over drug or alcohol abuse.
Hammond, who was the longest-running cast member of Saturday Night Live, detailed his life experience in a memoir, God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F**cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live and other Mind-Altering Mayhem.
Hammond’s struggles with drug, alcohol and self-cutting — the result of childhood abuse at the hands of his mother — have been spotlighted in various interviews. He said sharing his life is important because it sheds light on a pain kept in the dark.
“It seems like the events that I talk about —when I speak — were things I had to keep secret for decades,” he said in a recent phone interview. “The crime is having to deny it.”
Bringing these real-life stories to the North Texas public is part of the work the Recovery Resource Council, said Dimanche Brewer, special events coordinator for the North Texas nonprofit.
“He really has a compelling story,” Brewer said.
Brewer said the luncheon drew 1,000 last year. Past Stars in Recovery speakers include actors Patty Duke and Kelly McGillis, songwriter Paul Williams and sportscaster Pat Summerall.
“The event has grown every year,” she said.
Hammond is known for his impersonations of politicians and pundits such as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Chris Matthews.
Hammond said he has post-traumatic stress disorder and was a victim of child abuse by his mother. He writes that drinking alcohol and cutting himself helped him cope with images that haunted him in flashbacks.
“Sometimes, when disjointed childhood memories popped into my head, I sought refuge in the bottle,” Hammond wrote. “I drank on Saturday morning, had breakfast, then slept for a while before going to rehearsal. The drinking calmed my nerves and quieted the disturbing images that sprang into my head.”
Hammond described how he also cut himself.
“When the drinking didn’t work, I cut myself,” he wrote. “The wound created a fresh crisis to get me out of the one in my head. It gave me something else to focus on. It was more blood, but it wasn’t that blood.”
Hammond described his father as a nonabusive parent who struggled with personal demons from World War II.
Hammond said victims of abuse must get help.
“Open up the window and shout,” Hammond said. “Tell everyone who will listen to you what is going on. The only way out of hell is to ask for help.”
Though alcohol and cutting were self-medicating habits for the pain, comedy had a somewhat healing effect, he said.
“Being funny is fun,” Hammond said. “What’s hard about that? It’s fun to make people laugh. I always thought it was good for me and it gave me something to focus on.”