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Darrell Hammond & Childhood Trauma

Art work in documentary by Dustin Yellin


In the documentary, Cracked Up, Darrell Hammond starts off his story visiting his childhood home in Melbourne Florida. The house is a modest one-story home in basic suburbia wonderland. Viewing it one can’t help to imagine the neighborhood in its prime and picture the milk man dropping off the latest order and newspaper boy biking by tossing the tightly rolled paper on the doorstep.

Hammond dressed from head to toe in all black confirms by the contrast of lighter hues that his colorful hometown was not a place where he wanted to be. He rediscovers his house with an unimpressed contemplation of skepticism as one would do returning to the scene of the crime. Watching Hammond take in the surroundings of where he grew up as a child is anything but cherished and a solid reminder that things aren’t always what they seem. Behind those innocent looking walls is where his mother stabbed, electrocuted, and slammed his fingers in the drawers.

This house is where Hammond endured childhood abuse from his mother that he would later express through cutting himself, self-medicating, and the inability to fully love a woman. Through the years he would attend multiple rehabilitation centers and psych wards in search of a treatment that would assist in stabilizing his life and overall wellbeing.

Doctors through the years would misdiagnose him with schizophrenia, as a manic depressive, with multiple personality disorder, and many others. At one time Hammond recalls being prescribed up to seven different medications at the same time in attempt to treat his condition. It wouldn’t be until later in life as a middle-aged adult that a psychiatrist would diagnose him correctly with childhood trauma and explain that all diagnoses from the past were not accurate.

He was a victim of trauma.

Most people know the author, actor, and comedian as one of the longest active cast members at Saturday Night Live. (Hammond is second with fourteen years to Keenan Thompson’s eighteen years.) The impressions he is most famous for are Sean Connery in the classic Jeopardy skit and his reoccurring role as Bill Clinton. One might recall at one point he even met president Clinton in character as President Clinton.

In a live talk with Fred Willard, Hammond discusses how he had his first breakthrough after checking into a trauma treatment center and seeing the same psychiatrist every day for six weeks, followed up by three months of treatment in another trauma treatment center. Hamond shows how childhood trauma is not to be taken lightly and is rooted deeply into a victim’s existence. He is an example of what happens when childhood trauma is left untouched and buried. Like a parasite it sucks the life and soul out of its victim. Hammond had to go through extensive therapy and find a doctor that could get at the core of what really happened to him as a child.

“This doctor said to me mental illness is not an airborne virus. This guy would say to me I don’t even want you to say mental illness. I want you to say mental injury. Let’s tell the entire story. You are not this way by accident.”

By Hammond being brave and telling his personal story of childhood trauma to the public he opens the door, welcomes his audience inside, and even asks if anyone would like a beverage and popcorn to witness who the real Darrell Hammond is. He blends his personal and public face together showing his vulnerability and it is relatable. Not many people have the willingness to view themselves under a microscope, let alone welcome the world to see every crack and fault.

Hammond’s reaction after diving deep to release all the trauma to the surface was to share his story to the world to help others. I commend him for being brave enough to tell the world what he went through. Not only is it helping others, but it also makes him more relatable and human to his audience. I think at times we all need to know that people all go through things and that nobody is alone. That is what Hammond provided his audience by telling his story.

“I never got to love a woman in a normal way. Sleep was impossible for me because I woke up screaming. There were nightmares. I was a food addict. I couldn’t eat food. I couldn’t eat food, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t love. To wake up one morning and not be afraid. Wow. Fifty years scared. Fifty years. And NOT now.”

by K.J. Joseph

August 28, 2021


Description: courtesy of

In Cracked Up, director Michelle Esrick’s Award-winning documentary, we witness the impact that childhood trauma can have across a lifetime through the incredibly courageous and personal story of comedian, actor and Saturday Night Live legend Darrell Hammond. Renowned for his impressions of Bill Clinton, Sean Connery and hundreds more, Hammond wowed SNL audiences for a record-breaking 14 seasons. Although Hammond performed brilliantly on live TV, behind the scenes he suffered from debilitating flashbacks, self-injury and addictions, symptoms which were misdiagnosed by over 40 doctors as mental illnesses, including: multiple personality disorder, manic depression and schizophrenia. Not until a suicide attempt that brought Hammond together with Dr. Nabil Kotbi, was he properly diagnosed and treated, unleashing the memories his brain had locked away for over 50 years.

Esrick, gracefully weaves together comedy and tragedy, helping us to understand the biological effects of childhood trauma in a new light. Breaking down barriers of stigma and replacing shame with compassion and hope, Cracked Up reveals what is possible when science meets the human spirit.

Cracked Up is a rallying cry to be part a movement that is transforming our communities one by one to become trauma informed.

Director: Michelle Esrick Producers: David Becker and Michelle Esrick Co-Producers: Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker In Association With: Artemis Rising Foundation Executive Producers: Regina K. Scully, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Becky Newhall, Laurie Benenson, Bill Benenson Composer: David Robbins Original Song “HIDE THE HURT”: Music and Lyrics Written By Diane Warren Performed By: Macy Gray Executive Music Producer: Bonnie Greenberg Editors: Mark Juergens and Adam Yaffe Additional Editor and Post Supervisor: Brian Miele Cinematographers: Chris Hegedus, Thorsten Thielow, Daniel B. Gold, Tom Bergmann, Joan Churchill, Zac Nicholson, Martina Radwan, Kirsten Johnson Animation: Jason Van Conradt Impact Campaign Strategist: Bonnie Abaunza Public Relations: Teri Kane Social Media Strategist: Rachel Anne

Featuring: Darrell Hammond, Lorne Michaels, Steve Higgins, Christopher Ashley, Dr. Nabil Kotbi, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Whoopi Goldberg, Larry Laskowski (Darrell’s childhood friend).


God if You Are Not Up There, I’m Fucked, by Darrell Hammond

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