Flashback: Master Mimic - An Interview with Darrell Hammond (August 2007)

Here is another entry from the vault:

Darrell Hammond has mastered countless impressions over his ten-plus years on "Saturday Night Live," turning in uncanny impersonations of Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, "Hardball" host Chris Matthews and countless others.
You're on a hit television show-why tour?
I'm getting all of the work that I want and all of the venues that I want. I lost about 15 pounds and have a lot more energy. I love my work.
there last summer and this will be my third time.
You grew up in Melbourne, Fla. Does growing up in the South make it easier for you to do some impressions like President Clinton?
Yes and I have relatives from Tifton and Sylvester, Ga. So I'm familiar with Georgia. I think in general, I am probably a stronger comic in the South because I am from there and have a greater understanding of the people there than in most other parts of the country.
When does it hit you that you can do an impression?
Every voice that I have done for "Saturday Night Live" is an assignment. I go over there and wait for them to give me an assignment on Wednesday after they've been up all night on Tuesday [writing the show]. That's what has happened for 10-and-a-half years. I don't even write on the show. I'm like a field-goal kicker. They just hand me a script.
Have there been impressions that you wish you hadn't done?
I once got an assignment to do President Bush on a Saturday, and I was not able to pull it off once we got to air. It went badly. I didn't have a basic understanding of the character at all. I still do President Bush in my act. I don't do his voice; I do his physical mannerisms, and that makes me understand him better now. Attempting to do the voice was a defeat for me.
Has there been anyone who has been offended by your impression?
No one has ever confronted me on that level. I'm always aware that some of the material that I'm being given to perform may not be pleasing to some people that I respect. I am aware of that all the time.
You seem young, yet you're on the other end of the scale when it comes to the average age of the cast. Is it fair to say it's a young person's game?
Wow, that's a very delicate way of putting it [laughs] ... the show doesn't involve me doing a thousand push-ups a week, which I would have difficulty with. The thing about being an impressionist, and I didn't even want to be one, is that it is something that I can do for a long time. When I joined the show, I was older than everyone then and I am older than everyone now. So far, I have been able to put it out there and compete with the young ones.
Where do you see the future of "Saturday Night Live"and your own future on the show?
I am a specialty player. I am the only person in the history of the show that did just impressions. The offer is there to stay for a while. So far, the job is still fresh and fun. NBC has treated me really well. Every summer I ask the producers if I should come back and they say, "Yes."


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