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'SNL's' Darrell Hammond reveals dark past of abuse

By Mallory Simon, CNN
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Tue October 25, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Darrell Hammond came to CNN to discuss his career, new book
  • The interview took a dark turn when he said he had been abused by his mother
  • The "SNL" actor ended up in tears talking about his past

(CNN) -- "Saturday Night Live" alum Darrell Hammond was stabbed, beaten and subjected to electrical shocks by his mother during his childhood, which led to self-mutilation and hospitalizations during his later life and while he was performing on the hit TV show, he told CNN.

"I was a victim of systematic and lengthy brutality," the comedic actor told CNN. "My mom did some things which have cost me dearly."

Hammond sat down with CNN for an interview for a CNN Comedy segment, but the tone shifted and it became clear that he had serious things to talk about. What was to be a 20-minute chat turned into a 45-minute conversation that ended in tears as he talked about the problems he faced in his childhood and the path he feels it eventually led him down.

The actor is well known as the funnyman who graced "SNL" to spoof celebrities like Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Sean Connery. He said there was a darker side that played out in his life, before he became known for those roles, and then later on, backstage before he went out to perform.

"It started to manifest itself when I was 19 years old. That was the first time I ever cut myself," he told CNN.

Hammond said he was put in psychiatric wards from time to time as doctors struggled to figure out what was happening to him.

He said he faced a variety of diagnoses, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and was put on several drugs. While he took them, he called his medications "soul-killing drugs," though he says now he knows they helped stabilize him.

"I was on as many as seven medications at one time," he said. "Doctors didn't know what to do with me."

Hammond says he was medicated almost all of the time he performed on "SNL" each week, but that wasn't all that was happening behind the stage doors.

"There was cutting backstage," he said, adding that one time, he was taken from the studio to a psychiatric ward because of his actions. "In fact, the week that I did the Gore debates, I believe I was taken away in a straitjacket."

So how could a man seen by many as a comedic genius, but who was clearly struggling inside, step up each night to deliver some of "SNL's" most noted caricatures? In part, Hammond said, he didn't want to let anyone down. " 'SNL' was a place where if Lorne [Michaels] judges that you can hit the ball over the wall that night, you're going to go out and step up to the plate," he said. "I didn't want to let Lorne down, who I was close to."

Hammond also spoke of the troubles he faced with his father, who struggled after fighting in a war and dealing with what he had seen. Though he said his father never abused him the way his mother did, it was difficult for Hammond to be around him.

The actor said he had trouble playing John McCain in "SNL" skits because he related to McCain's torture. His father was eager to see his son play the onetime Republican presidential candidate and was unaware of Hammond's difficulty in taking on the role, because he was not aware of the torture his son went through, Hammond said.

Despite the relationships he had with his parents, both of their deaths were tough on him, he said.

Hammond, who has not previously talked about a lot of the troubles in his childhood and during his famed career, has written a book titled "God If You're Not Up There, I'm F-ked," in which he reveals some of his addictions throughout the years. Hammond says he is not hiding his problems anymore.

"I don't feel ashamed of falling down, because I got hit by a Mack truck," he said. "The fact is, I kept trying to get back up, and then I did."

NBC had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

CNN's Jarrett Bellini contributed to this report.

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