PLAINS TWP. — “Saturday Night Live” alum Darrell Hammond is the longest-tenured cast member of the now 38-year-old sketch comedy program, but his days as a stand-up comic helped blaze a path to TV stardom.
And on Tuesday, he lauded an agreement between a local comedy club operator and the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs as a way to ensure stand-up comedy can continue.
On Tuesday, Hammond, 58, was on hand inside Breakers Bar at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Casino to participate in the announcement that Wise Crackers Comedy Club now will call the region’s largest entertainment venue home.
The club will be open inside Seasons Ballroom Thursdays, Friday and Saturdays starting at the end of next month. Casino President Mike Bean and club owners Anne and Scott Bruce see the partnership as a sure bet.
The Bruces began the Wise Crackers Comedy Club in 2000 playing in venues in Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre and opened the Wise Crackers Comedy Club in October 2005 at a renovated 175-seat venue, adjacent to Genetti Hotel and Convention Center at 15 S. Pennsylvania Blvd.
In addition to that venue, the club held shows at the Clarion Hotel in Scranton and at hotels and resorts in the Poconos, Allentown and State College. Scott Bruce said the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton venues will no longer host shows, but the rest will.
He said that while things were good in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, teaming up in a more central location that already draws tens of thousands of visitors a week made good business sense.
Bean said, “We’re always trying to provide more reasons for our guests to come visit us and a comedy club adds another offering.”
Hammond, who was a regular on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” from 1995 until 2009 and was known for his impersonations of Donald Trump, Chris Matthews and Al Gore, gave those gathered at Tuesday’s announcement some of his best President Bill Clinton and actor Sean Connery impressions.
He also lauded the Bruces for continuing to provide rising comics with an outlet to hone their craft and have a shot at the the big time.
A stalwart of the comedy club circuit in the 1980s and 1990s, Hammond said these clubs are not as plentiful as they once were, but they’re still just as important.
“Becoming a good stand-up requires stage time and a venue with a responsible and educated owner. … A great comedy club, great comedy venue is a beautiful thing, otherwise stand-ups just fall by the wayside. It could become a lost art form, but the people that are doing it now are doing it because they’re really serious about it,” Hammond said.
After leaving “SNL,” he has made numerous cameo appearances on the show, went into drug rehab and penned a memoir in which he offered a first-hand account of what he remembered as an abusive childhood, psychiatric issues, struggles with substance abuse and his experiences on “SNL.”
He said he is working on something right now related to the book but declined to offer anything more. As for his comic career, he said he will be playing a show in the new Convention Center at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Feb. 8.
“It’s great to be here with you today for this announcement, but I can’t wait to come back for a full show in February,” said Hammond.