To honor the Oscar-winning actor, who died this weekend at 90, Hammond on Saturday tweeted of his famous impression. “Sorry to hear of the passing of #SeanConnery, my condolences to his family,” the comedian wrote. “Always loved doing my silly impressions of him, RIP.”
“Celebrity Jeopardy!” was the brainchild of Norm Macdonald, who sought any excuse to whip out his Burt Reynolds impersonation. In the first iteration of the sketch, Hammond’s Connery was amenable and, frankly, fairly forgettable. He didn’t reappear again until 1998, but in his second outing, he was the foul-mouthed, antagonizing, dirty-joke-spewing, category-misreading character that would reappear for decades.
The Connery character doesn’t share much in common with the actor best known for playing the suave, effortlessly cool, womanizing Bond. On SNL, Hammond mythologizes him not only as a fool, but downright abusive to Will Ferrell’s Alex Trebek (whose mother he always insults).
In one sketch, for example, he must answer from the “this is the sound a doggy makes” category. When Trebek points out that the answer “moo” is incorrect, Hammond’s Connery responds, “Well, that’s the sound your mother made last night.”
Hammond came up with the character late one night somewhat out of desperation. SNL needed a third celebrity impersonation for the sketch, and he figured Connery would suffice at least once, but assumed it was “destined for the scrap heap.”
“I was always told when I was coming up that audiences had to understand your premise and kind of agree with it in order to laugh. And I remember thinking to myself, ‘They’re not gonna understand this premise. They’re not going to agree with it. It makes no sense that Sean Connery doesn’t know the answers on ‘Jeopardy!’ It makes no sense that Sean Connery hates Alex Trebek. And it makes no sense that he’s a homophobe,’ ” Hammond told Rolling Stone shortly after Connery’s death. “It doesn’t make any sense. And yet it’s easily the most popular thing I’ve ever done.”
Hammond’s Connery impersonation may have become the most famous, but his was far from the only one. Something about Connery — perhaps the Scottish accent, perhaps his sheer coolness, for lack of a better term — invites countless attempts to imitate. But, as the actor once told Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show,” not many people had the courage to perform them in front of him — not even fellow actors like Matthew Broderick or Alec Baldwin. (Connery’s reaction to Leno’s impression, which can best be described as polite, might hint as to why.)
Whatever the reason for their popularity, the impressions persist, and Hammond’s in particular.
“The other night I did shows in Fairfield, [Conn.,] outdoor shows,” Hammond told Rolling Stone. “There were people there, 25-ish, who knew every single thing I was going to say when I did the Sean Connery-on-Jeopardy! bit. Back in the day, when I was doing colleges, kids would bring signs. And you’re talking about kids from all over the world. Connery had that thing that [Bill] Clinton had, people just couldn’t get enough of him.”