Tina Fey’s Bossypantsmeets David Carr’s The Night of the Gun in Darrell Hammond’sgroundbreaking memoir, God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked—a raw look inside the troubled life and mind of anAmerican comic genius. By turns poignant and hilarious, Hammond takes readersfrom the set of Saturday Night Live, where he was the show’slongest-tenured cast member, to the drug-ridden streets of Harlem and into thetwisting corridors of his own unflaggingly humorous consciousness. Minglingbehind-the-scenes stories from television’s best-loved comedy series with adark look inside a world-class funnyman, God If You’re Not Up There,I’m F*cked is a book sure to resonate with anyonewho shares a talent for performance, a love of comedy, or a desire to know howan artist can climb from the deepest despair to the very top of his profession.
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About the Author
Darrell Hammond is an award-winning actor and comedian who was a Saturday Night Live cast member for a record-setting fourteen years. He has also appeared on Broadway and in the dramatic television series Damages and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. He recently received critical acclaim for his starring role in the one-man play Tru. He lives in New York City
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God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked
By Darrell Hammond
HarperCollinsCopyright © 2011 Darrell Hammond
All right reserved.
Chapter OneChapter One
Studio 8H, 30 Rockefeller Center
New York City
To say it's intimidating to walk into 30 Rockefeller Center
to audition for Saturday Night Live is one of the century's
greatest understatements. The building itself, once known as
the RCA Building until GE bought the company and NBC
along with it, is one of the city's great landmarks, built during
the Depression in classic Art Deco style. You could get dizzy looking up at
the Josep Maria Sert mural Time on the ceiling above the main entrance.
Thank God it was summer, because if the enormous Christmas tree had been
up out front, I'd probably have passed out.
Trying to ignore the hordes of tourists lined up to take the
NBC tour, I checked in at the security deskYes, Mr. Hammond,
here's your pass, go on up, they're expecting youand
stepped into the same elevator that for two decades had ferried
a seemingly endless cavalcade of comedians to stardom.
I got out on the eighth floor and was escorted to makeup,
where a lovely young lady dabbed me with powder to douse
the shine of nervous sweat on my forehead. At least I had a few
months of sobriety under my belt, so I didn't have withdrawal
shakes. Although I could have killed for a slug of gin right
When I'd been sufficiently fluffed and primped, I was led into the theater that
I'd fantasized about forever, Studio 8H, or the Hall, as I call it, where legends like
George Carlin, Buck Henry, and Andy Kaufman had performed,
a few feet from where the Rolling Stones and David Bowie have played,
and where Lorne Michaels, who hatched this comedy phenomenon
a generation earlier to replace weekend reruns of The Tonight
Show, was sitting on a chair in front of me.
I almost said, "You know what? I'm thirty-nine years old.
I'm on lithium. Do you know what lithium is for? If I may
quote the National Library of Medicine at the National
Institutes of Health:
Lithium is used to treat and prevent episodes of mania
(frenzied, abnormally excited mood) in people with bipolar
disorder (manic-depressive disorder; a disease that causes
episodes of depression, episodes of mania, and other
abnormal moods). Lithium is in a class of medications called
anti-manic agents. It works by decreasing abnormal activity
in the brain.
"So yeah, it's too late, and I'm too fucking scared, and
apparently I have abnormal activity in my brain. Thank you.
Lorne looked at me and said, "Are you okay?"
"I think so," I lied.
Then he smiled at me. Fuck it, now I have to go through with
it. I had been asked to do ten minutes, which is an eternity. I
proceeded to peel off every impression, like Phil Donahue speaking
Spanish, that I could pull together in the short amount of
time that I'd been given to prepare. But really, I'd been preparing
for the previous twelve years for a moment like this.
When I left, I thought, If my life ends right now, it's okay. I
was in that theater. Lorne Michaels was there. And I performed
well, despite my terror. Whether I was any good or not was
immaterial. I knew I wasn't going to get called back.
And yet I was. Lorne wanted to see if I had any more
impressions, so I came up with Ted Koppel in German and
another ten or so and did it all over again a week later.
I guess I did okay, because then Lorne wanted to see me
move on my feet. He took me to the Comic Strip. Fuck, that
place? Really? I'd been dismissed by a lot of New York clubs,
but the Comic Strip held a special place in my pantheon of
When I auditioned there in 1990, I had as great a set as I'd
had up to that point. I totally killed. Afterward, Lucien Hold,
the manager of the club, who was renowned for having discovered comic
greats like Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Adam Sandler,
sat me down in a booth up front.
"How old are you?" he asked.
I told him I was thirty-four. He didn't flinch.
He pointed to pictures on the wall of comedians who had
worked there. "Look at these faces. They're stars. That's what
we're about here. Stars."
Lucien was smiling at me.
"They have it."
Could my luck be changing?
"And I don't think you have it," he said.
Apparently my luck wasn't changing in any way whatsoever.
"I don't see any reason why you should come back here
or call here again." He stood up and walked away without so
much as a "Good-bye, thanks for coming."
I went home with absolutely no reason to believe that I was
ever going to make it. I had only enough money for a subway
token. It was one of those horribly cold February New York
nights, and I took the train back to my hovel in Brooklyn. I
even slipped on the ice on the sidewalk outside my apartment. It
was perfect, going home without hope. I sat in the dark, smoking
cigarettes. If I'd had any money, I'd have gotten drunk.
It was kismet that, five years later, Lorne would have me go
there for part of my audition, unwittingly giving me a dose of cosmic payback.
With Lorne watching and Lucien Hold hovering
nearby, I got onstage and, once again, I killed, although
with so many performances and impressions since then, I no
longer remember exactly what I did. As much as I would have
liked to tell Lucien what I thought of him, I figured that performance
for Lorne was as much of a fuck-you as I needed.
The next challenge was dinner with Lorne and his producer,
Marci Klein, Calvin Klein's daughter, who to this day
works as a producer on Saturday Night Live as well as with
Tina Fey on 30 Rock. Marci had chosen a restaurant over on
the West Side near Broadway. It was a casual evening, and we
just swapped stories. The problem is, the highlight of one of
my stories might be, "And then when we got to the store, they
didn't have any long-handled spoons!" and Lorne's would be
something like, "When I was sitting on the Berlin Wall with Paul McCartney . . ."
I was never going to be able to compete with his material, but somehow
I made it through the evening without humiliating myself.
A few weeks later, I was lying on my futon on the uneven
floor of my apartment in Hell's Kitchen, where the night before
a small furry creature had run up the side of my head, stomped
on my face, and then run back down the other side. My wife
was with me when the phone rang. I don't know why, but we
looked at each in that meaningful way they do in the movies.
It was my manager, Barry Katz, and my agent, Ruth Ann Secunda,
calling at the same time, which never happened.
I got the job.
My wife and I decided to celebrate by opening a bottle of
champagne and dancing in the fountain in front of the Plaza
Okay, no, we didn't. What we really did was run like crazy
from my apartment on Forty-eighth Street and Tenth Avenue
down to Forty-fifth Street between Eighth Avenue and
Broadway to the Imperial Theatre, where Les Miz was playing.
I loved that show. I'd seen it about ten times. I couldn't get
enough of it; we bought the most expensive tickets they had
left. I reckoned that play is my life storyunjustly treated by
life, resolutely angry, but things kind of work out, and along
the way there's a little bit of love and light and, not for nothing,
a couple of bucks in it too. That's my Tenth Avenue synopsis of
one of the great literary works of all time.
A few days later, I was having dinner at Umberto's Clam
House down in Little Italy, and I ran into Colin Quinn, whom
I'd met years earlier when I'd been hired, then fired, as his
warm-up guy on the MTV game show Remote Control, which
he hosted in the late 1980s.
"Hey, what's up?"
"I just got Saturday Night Live!"
On Monday, September 25, 1995, I reported to work for
the twenty-first season of Saturday Night Live.
As I walked through those halls and saw those photos on
the wall of the greats who had worked therethe late John
Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Chris Farley; Dan Aykroyd,
Eddie Murphy, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Molly ShannonI
couldn't wrap my lithium-quenched mind around the fact that
this was really happening. Two decades of comic genius and
me? It was tremendous validation, and yet I was certain it was
a cosmic joke of some kind. Maybe the antidepressants were
making me hallucinate?
I was assigned an office on the seventeenth floor with, who
else, Colin Quinn, who had been hired that year as a writer and
featured player. We hung out there until an intern knocked on
the door and yelled, "Pitch!"
The pitch meeting in Lorne's office down the hall is a little
bit tradition and a little bit meet-and-greet, where whichever
legend of stage or screen or music or sports or politics is hosting
that week is welcomed by the writers and the cast. Lorne sits behind his
desk, the host sits in a chair by the desk, and everyone else sits wherever
they can squeeze in, including the floor. Lorne's office was plenty big,
but it's a shitload of people who crammed in there.
Lorne's right-hand men in these festivities, alongside Marci
Klein, were SNL producers Mike Shoemaker and Steve Higgins.
These guys had, and still have, to be able to do all the jobs on the
showlike a restaurant manager who can cook, wait tables, and
make a nice Caesar dressing. They had to know how to write a
joke, manage people, craft a sketch, and above all they had to be
fucking funny. Higgins is great with impressions and helped me
build almost every impression I would do on the show.
Mariel Hemingway was the host of my first show. I remember
thinking at the time, She's had a conversation with Woody
Allen, hell, she's kissed Woody Allen, and I'm sitting just a few feet
from her. And she's more beautiful than anyone has ever been in
the history of people.
Do my socks match?
Even major stars are often a little intimidated when they
walk into those offices, but Lorne makes sure the SNL crew around them
is very hands-on in the most unintrusive way
possible. Everybody is extremely welcoming, and any thought
the host might have, the slightest grievance, the slightest knitted
brow, is addressed clearly and immediately. And the host
has tremendous say in what the show will be that week.
During the pitch meeting, everybody throws out ideas to the
host about what they might like to do for that week's show. If
you don't have an idea, it's entirely okay to make up something,
even if it's hideous. The staff laughs, but often the poor host sits
there thinking, What? Grecian Formula 44 on toast? What?
I tossed out a crazy idea for a cold openthat's the sketch
at the start of the show that always ends with, "Live from New
York, it's Saturday Night!" The show had been receiving a lot of
criticism for not being as funny in recent seasons as the nation
thought it should be, and Lorne was being battered a little bit
in the press for the way the show had gone downhill. So I had
this crazy idea of doing a Wizard of Oz sketch in which the bad
press was just a dream. It was completely ridiculous, although
everyone was very kind about it.
It was the first of nearly three hundred weeks I would spend at SNL,
and lithium isn't exactly Ginkgo Bilbao when it
comes to memory, so I'm going to admit the details of that first
week are a bit murky all these years later, but here goes.
After the pitch meeting the cast and writers, per custom,
spent some time with Mariel, chatting, swapping compliments,
and drinking coffee. Some writers started to work on
the sketches that got the nod during the pitch meeting, and the
rest of us went home.
On Tuesday, people started coming in around noon.
Tradition dictates that the host visit with the writers in their offices to talk
about proposed sketches. A lot of the writers are
Emmy winners, and it's really an honor for the host as much as
anything. Meanwhile, the writing began in earnest, so a lot of
people would end up staying all night working, including Lorne.
The cast members conferred with the writers, and each one
participated in putting together anywhere from five to ten sketches.
My role on the show was a little different from the rest of the
cast's. I wasn't very good at coming up with sketch ideas, but
that's not why I was there. I was a field-goal kicker. You need
a voice? I was the guy who could kick that football. I didn't
know how to punt, pass, or tackle, but I could kick. So I came
in on Wednesday mornings around 10:00 a.m. Sometimes I'd
have gotten a call Tuesday night that would be a tip-off: "Can
you do this guy?" But lots of times they would simply assign a
role to me, and I would walk in having never heard the voice.
That first week they gave me Ted Koppel in a Nightline sketch in
which Koppel interviews Republican presidential candidates Colin Powell
(Tim Meadows) and Bob Dole (Norm Macdonald).
I usually had four or five hours to study videotapes
I got from the research department and cobble together some
semblance of a voice before read-through with all the cast and
crew, which happened Wednesday afternoon.
Excerpted from God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked by Darrell Hammond Copyright © 2011 by Darrell Hammond. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Author's Note vii
Chapter 1 The Hall 5
Chapter 2 The Golden Years 26
Chapter 3 There's Something Wrong Here 56
Chapter 4 From Hell to Hell's Kitchen 71
Chapter 5 It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times 102
Chapter 6 God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked 120
Chapter 7 Blood on the Floor 140
Chapter 8 What You Didn't See 161
Chapter 9 You Want Me to Go Where? 175
Chapter 10 I'll Show You Multiple Personality Disorder, Pal 182
Chapter 11 I Saw What You Did, and I Know Who You Are 207
Chapter 12 A Host of Hosts 215
Chapter 13 Politics for Dummies 237
Chapter 14 My Welcome Outstayed Me 249
Chapter 15 The Golden Years Redux 280
The Last Chapter I Mean It This Time 283
The Real Last Chapter Honest 305
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this book up to page 64, where Hammond describes, in three spare lines, the suicide of his bulimic girlfriend the day after he tells her he'll leave her if she doesn't "get help." This, of course, was coming from a complete addict who apparently could dish out the advice he couldn't follow himself. Three lines, and that was it. No pity, no sympathy, no appology, no remorse. Undoubtedly he didn't care much about her. I couldn't read any further, and I'm sorry I bought the book. Kate McNamara, MD
Darrell Hammond has offered our society a story about pop-culture by describing his work as a comedian. He has also generously shared that which we don’t see beneath the mask of entertainer: the depths to which child abuse destroys the psyche. A writer who can tell this story of trauma, its ramifications, and recovery is generous enough to let others know that they are not alone. It is significant to solving social problems when a celebrity reveals that all that glitters is not gold; breaking the silence of child abuse is a courageous step toward awareness of the need for prevention. Mr. Hammond describes the crisis ridden life he led, which he fed with alcohol, drugs, and a constant need for intervention. The audience of Saturday Night Live may enjoy the behind-the-scenes activity of Hammond’s career on the show. However, audiences of his award-winning acting may not have known the origin of his genius. Apparently, his voice was not heard as a child, until he noticed that his mother would often stop abusing him when he mimicked others’ voices. He tells the readers how he developed this talent as a means of self-protection. Hammond writes poignantly about his father and their relationship, or lack thereof. Meanwhile, Hammond felt scared to death of the world at large. The fear shadowed him, and showered him with insecurities that led to multiple self-destructive behaviors. The pressurized public life as an entertainer and the intense private life as a trauma victim was his reality in paradox. The writing style seems appropriate for the man and the material. There is no sensationalizing of the trauma he endured; he tells this story as it unfolds for him, in unbearable explosions of flashbacks and nightmares. Hammond is tortured, as was his cold father and cruel mother, but he does not torment the reader with unnecessary scenarios of abuse. He gives the reader enough details of the child abuse to understand his inner hell. After countless rehabs and psych wards, misdiagnosis and medications, he also gives the reader reason to hope for Hammond’s continuation in recovery and contentment in relationships.
Had me turning page after page to find out the next extreme high or extreme low. As a fan of Hammond for 10 plus years it is crazy to find out all the demons he was fighting.
this book was fantastic. it is heartfelt, painful and funny. it helped bring me to some realizations about my own past. i applaud him for being so brave to be open.
Great book but sometimes really dark...getting to why he was an addict was disturbing but amzing as well
I thought the book was informing. Darrell Hammond life was interesting. I have read better
I heard him interviewed and my interest in his personal story as more than a great impressionist was piqued. While I think he held a lot back, this look into his private thoughts as he made his way up the ladder of success is pretty interesting.
This book was very interesting. So much a person goes through just to get by.
This is an accounting of an often troubled journey through a very talented man's life.
This book is a MUST READ! You can feel Darrell's pain and suffering.... very powerful.