As far as mothers go, Darrell Hammond's was horrifically bad.
The "Saturday Night Live" comedian, best known for his impressions of Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney and Al Gore, spills shocking stories about his childhood in his new memoir, "God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked." After years of drinking, drugging and cutting himself (sometimes backstage at "SNL"), Hammond met a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. The cause: His mother.
Hammond details some of the memories his doctors helped him dredge up:
"I am three of four years old, and my mother is holding me close to her with one arm. In her free hand she holds a serrated steak knife. Slowly, she sticks it into the center of my tongue, making an incision about one-quarter inch to one-half inch long. It is quiet except for the sound of the hibiscus bush thump-thumping against the kitchen window. I do not struggle or cry. Somehow I know that to do so will make it worse. The kitchen floor is red with my blood."
"I am barely past toddlerhood, and I wander out to sit on the wooden ties of the railroad tracks behind our house. I practice crying while hoping one of those eighty-car freight trains will run me over, flattening and distorting me like a penny left on the track. My mom stands by the door of our house, forty yards away, and watches me with a quizzical expression, as though she is curious to see what will happen. I suppose she's close enough to grab me if she hears a train coming, but I don't know."
"I am getting into the car to go somewhere with my mother. 'Wait,' she says, holding the door open. 'Put your hand there.' When I do, she slams the door."
According to Hammond, crying failed to stop her. "What finally worked were voices," he writes. "I could win her approval, or at least avoid a beating, by doing this one thing … Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge spared me her rage."
He honed his impressions and turned to comedy, landing on "SNL" for more than a decade despite work-inhibiting battles with drugs and alcohol. After several years of therapy, his doctors encouraged him to confront his parents about his childhood.
"When I finally summoned up the nerve to dial the number that had been etched in my memory since I was old enough to count to ten, my mother's response was simple and heartfelt: 'Don't ever call us again.'"
When Hammond saw her next, she was on her deathbed. His father died soon after.