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10/30/05 - Arts - SP chats with 'Saturday Night Live' impressionist Darrell Hammond "I'm like a field-goal kicker," says Darrell Hammond of his role on "Saturday Night Live."(photo Martin H. Simon/Getty Images)

Master mimic

SP chats with 'Saturday Night Live' impressionist Darrell Hammond

By Robert J. Nebel

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. Hammond recently talked with The Sunday Paper about his work on the show, his memories of Atlanta and life growing up in the South. Q You're on a hit television show—why tour and come to a place like the Punchline? A 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 and the Atlanta Punchline is one of the top five [comedy] clubs in the country. Whenever I get a chance I like to come down there.

Have you been here often?

I have only been there twice. When I started out as a comic in 1988, I emceed there, but I always had it in my head that I would come back and headline there one day. So it happened 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.