Cracked Up: The Darker Side of Darrell Hammond

Darrell Hammond in Cracked Up. Photo credit: Healing from Trauma Film, LLC.

While Darrell Hammond grew his fame from appearing on Saturday Night Live, Cracked Up shows a darker side of the comedian.

Darrell Hammond grew up with some sense of being surrounded by evil.  He was a victim of child abuse.  No child should go through what Hammond experienced.  By opening up in the documentary, maybe Hammond will inspire others with similar experience to do the same.

To those who decide to watch the documentary thinking it will be focused on you comedy, you’ll be disappointed.  This is because the main focus is the side of Hammond we hardly know.  Hammond previously touched on this on his book but watching in a visual medium is quite different.  This being said, we do see some clips of Hammond’s SNL appearances.  Whether it’s Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Sean Connery, Chris Matthews, Al Gore, etc., Hammond is a master.

This person who we saw masters these voices on SNL experienced those years quite differently.  In spite of it, Hammond held the previous record for longest cast member on the series.  He spent 14 seasons working for SNL but struggling in a way viewers never saw.  For much of his life, Hammond experienced issues dating back to his childhood yet nobody properly diagnosed him.  It wasn’t until he tried killing himself in which Hammond learned the root cause was “childhood trauma.”

It’s a shame that it took a suicide attempt for Hammond to finally learn the truth.  Oh, well.  The good news is that he’s still alive but that’s not to say it’s a struggle.  Hammond opened up in a book a few years ago: God, If You’re Not Up There…: Tales of Stand-up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem.  The 2011 memoir was the first inside look at Hammond’s head.  In spite of this vulnerable side of him, we still see Hammond showing his sense of humor.  It’s only natural for anyone who grows up in a dark environment to turn to comedy.  There’s some sort of truth in comedy but Hammond’s voice impressions formed the basis of his work on SNL.

If there’s a message to take away from viewing Cracked Up, it’s that people should not be afraid to open up on trauma.  We hear the shit that Darrell Hammond experienced and feel for him.  There’s a side of me that wonders how different his life could be if he didn’t experience the trauma.  Parents–and hopeful parents–should take note at how such stresses inside your home can have long-lasting effects on your children.  Parent with kindness and not anything that can lead your children down a dark path.

DIRECTOR:  Michelle Esrick
FEATURING:  Darrell Hammond, Lorne Michaels, Steve Higgins, Christopher Ashley, Dr. Nabil Kotbi, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Whoopi Goldberg, Larry Laskowski

Cracked Up held its world premiere during DOC NYC 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.